Primary 101: A newcomer's guide to today's election in Maryland

Erin Cox
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Just now tuning in to the Maryland race for governor? You’ve got a lot of company, and we’re here to help.

Here is our quick guide to everything you need to know, just in case you don’t have time to read our complete coverage of more than 175 articles about the primary.

If you encounter any issues at the polls today, please let us know through this form. »

Who’s running?

The biggest race on the ballot is the Democratic primary contest for governor, which will determine who faces popular incumbent Republican Larry Hogan in the fall.

Six major candidates are on the ballot. Most have the same policy views — more money for education, a $15 minimum wage, legalized marijuana — but differ in personality, biography and style.

The two front-runners are former NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker. Jealous is a darling of Maryland progressives and represents a Bernie Sanders-style candidate. Baker is a more traditional candidate and has the support of nearly all the big names in Maryland politics. In many ways, they represent the progressive-establishment split that has roiled the Democratic party nationally since the 2016 presidential primary election. Jealous has been doing better with voters in the Baltimore region while Baker has shored up support near the Washington suburbs.

But just because those two are in the lead, don’t write off the other four candidates on the ballot.

State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno is a longtime progressive lawmaker and budget wonk who has emphasized that he has the most experience in Annapolis. He’s the first openly gay person elected to the Maryland Senate, and aired a “Take that, Trump” commercial that featured him kissing his husband.

Krish Vignarajah is a lawyer and former policy aide to Michelle Obama who launched her campaign just three months after her daughter was born. An immigrant who rose through Maryland public schools to the Ivy League, Vignarajah offers a policy-heavy pitch for the job and emphasizes that there are zero women in Maryland’s top political offices.

Baltimore lawyer Jim Shea built the largest law firm in the state and, as a regent, led the University of Maryland system through some tough economic times. He has campaigned as a moderate with a stellar business record and tapped Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott to help bolster his cross-generational appeal.

Best-selling author and tech entrepreneur Alec Ross is a former Baltimore City teacher and alumnus of the Obama administration. He's pitched several first-in-the-nation policy ideas, including lending working parents money for child care and barring all gun sales unless they have biometric smart triggers.

If The Baltimore Sun’s profiles can’t help you decide who to support, try reading about how each of the candidates would fare in a matchup against Hogan. Or you could look up who The Sun’s editorial board has endorsed.

All the candidates have promised to support the winner of Tuesday night’s election.

Anyone else on the ballot?

Yes. You’ll probably recognize Kevin Kamenetz, the late Baltimore County executive who died of cardiac arrest May 10. The Board of Elections decided there was not enough time to reprint ballots without his name, even though his running mate, Valerie Ervin, briefly decided to run in his place. She later dropped out, but the Kamenetz-Ervin ticket will still be on the ballot. A vote for them will be counted for Ervin.

There are two other Democratic candidates who filed to run — teacher and perennial candidate Ralph Jaffe and Baltimore police chaplain James Jones. Neither has raised enough money or built a campaign staff to win a statewide election.

Hogan is running unopposed in the Republican primary, but he’s still throwing a victory party in Annapolis on Tuesday night.

What if I need to know more to decide between candidates?

We have a lot more to tell you. You can click through our voter’s guide, or read about the candidates’ policies for education or legalizing marijuana. You can also cherry-pick stories from our comprehensive gallery of all things about the primary election.

Aren’t there other races on the ballot?

Why, yes. We’ve written another shorthand guide to the Baltimore County executive race and Baltimore City state’s attorney race. All 188 seats in the Maryland General Assembly are on the ballot and only a handful of incumbents are unopposed. In Baltimore, there are several interesting races in which younger or more progressive candidates are challenging established veterans, and others that have intriguing political dimensions. There are primaries for most of Maryland’s eight congressional seats and one U.S. Senate seat, plus county councils, school boards and more across the state.

I heard a lot of people might have to use provisional ballots. What’s that about?

As many as 80,000 voters who tried to switch parties or update their address through the Maryland Vehicle Administration will have to cast provisional ballots at the polls. A computer glitch that began in April 2017 and was discovered Friday prevented the new information from being sent to the Maryland Board of Elections, which makes all the poll books out-of-date. State officials from both parties are angry about the last-minute problems, but election officials say they can handle it. Provisional votes always get counted as long as they're cast by registered voters in the right precinct. If you want to know more about provisional ballots, we have explained that here.

Anything else I need to know?

Sure, and we’ve created another set of FAQs to answer some basic questions about voting in Maryland.

ecox@baltsun.com

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