Conservative Maryland Del. Dan Cox says he is running for governor in 2022, the first right-wing, pro-Trump candidate in the race.
The first-term delegate’s entrance into the race has the potential to splinter the Republican Party and has Democratic strategists salivating at the chance to run a campaign against him, should he win the primary.
Cox, who represents parts of Frederick and Carroll counties in the legislature, did not respond to interview requests from The Baltimore Sun late Sunday.
Cox touched off speculation when he filed paperwork with state elections officials last week to form a “Dan Cox for Governor” campaign committee. He has not yet, however, filed any candidacy paperwork.
One day later, he used social media to encourage supporters to sign up for text alerts about “a pending campaign update (soon!)”
Then late on Independence Day, Cox sent out an announcement over text message and social media announcing his campaign for governor.
“Today, on July 4th, 2021, I am stepping up to run to be your next Governor,” Cox wrote in a text message to supporters, asking for campaign donations of $350 to help launch the campaign.
Cox, 46, has emerged as a favorite of the wing of the Republican Party that continues to support former President Donald Trump. He advocated against last spring’s pandemic shutdowns, going so far as to unsuccessfully sue Gov. Larry Hogan over the stay-at-home order.
Hogan, a fellow Republican, dismissed Cox earlier this year as a “Q-anon conspiracy theorist.” Hogan is in his second term and is barred by term limits from running again.
“He’s certainly not the kind of person I would vote to put in the legislature or support in any way for anything,” Hogan said in January.
Cox has drawn scrutiny in the House of Delegates in Annapolis, where his rhetoric has been criticized.
He compared a bill allowing younger teens to request mental health care to the Holocaust — during a debate on the floor of the House of Delegates that happened on Holocaust Remembrance Day. He said “medical professionals interfered in parental rights” during the Holocaust and would do so under the bill.
One Jewish lawmaker was quick to rise to say she was “enormously affronted” by Cox’s remarks. The speaker of the House admonished Cox to stick to the merits of the bill. (The measure was approved and goes into effect on Oct. 1)
Cox also helped organize a bus to bring people to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, the day that the 2020 election was certified and a mob overran the U.S. Capitol.
That afternoon, Cox criticized then-Vice President Mike Pence, apparently for not trying to halt the tally of Electoral College votes. At 3:21 p.m., more than an hour after rioters breached the Capitol, Cox posted on Twitter: “Pence is a traitor.”
In a statement a few days later, Cox said the group never made it to the Capitol building, left early and “of course did not participate in any violence.”
He has used the #stopthesteal hashtag favored by pro-Trump conspiracy theorists who believe the election was invalid.
Cox says on his campaign website that he was “a Philadelphia team member of lawyers for Trump Presidential campaign for three weeks during the 2020 election fighting for every legal vote to count.”
In his three years in Annapolis, Cox has sponsored about 50 bills, including several aimed at limiting access to abortion.
He also sponsored a failed resolution earlier this year that would have forced an end to the pandemic state of emergency. The resolution claimed: “More people have died or been harmed by the state of emergency than by the pandemic.” The resolution never received a vote.
Two of his bills have become law following unanimous, bipartisan votes: a requirement that courthouses post the number for a human trafficking hotline and another creating a Task Force to Study Crime Classifications and Penalties.
At the start of the year, Cox reported having a little more than $15,000 in his state delegate campaign account.
Cox joins two declared candidates in the Republican primary for governor: Kelly Schulz, the state’s commerce secretary; and Robin Ficker, an anti-tax advocate and perennial candidate.
Michael Steele, the former lieutenant governor who is now a commentator on MSNBC, is also considering a run.
Schulz’s campaign could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday night.
The Democrats have nine announced candidates from a variety of backgrounds, with most so far offering standard liberal talking points, such as wanting to improve public education and the environment.
The Maryland Democratic Party seemed to revel in the possibility of a Cox candidacy, issuing a news release last week with the headline: “Maryland Republican Primary Gets Messy.”
Maryland Democratic Party Chairwoman Yvette Lewis proclaimed in the news release that “Republicans are in a Trump-loyalty race to the bottom.”
Though the state parties are supposed to stay neutral during primaries, the Maryland Republican Party already has sent out fundraising solicitations touting Schulz’s candidacy. “There is nothing that a Liberal hates more than smiling and approachable Republicans like Kelly Schulz,” read one solicitation in April.