Pushing back on a national trend among Democratic groups providing sizable financial support for certain conservative Republican candidates, Maryland gubernatorial candidate Kelly Schulz is raising the alarm over an effort to help her GOP primary opponent with $1 million in television ads.
Schulz, a former state cabinet official for Gov. Larry Hogan, is facing state Del. Dan Cox in the July 19 primary. Endorsed by Hogan, a moderate Republican, Schulz has pitched herself as his natural successor, while Cox, who’s been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has campaigned on such issues as fighting government-led pandemic restrictions, restricting abortion rights and expanding access to firearms.
The Democratic Governors Association is funneling money into the state to support Cox in the primary expecting that he will be easier for the eventual Democratic nominee to beat in November. About $1,036,594 was planned for the ads, according to figures the Schulz campaign made public Thursday and attributed to a political ad-tracking company.
“Given Cox’s front-runner status and radical MAGA stances, we are starting the general election early and wasting no time to hold him accountable,” Democratic Governors Association spokesman Sam Newton said in a statement Thursday. “It’s telling that Kelly Schulz is already looking for excuses for her failure to gain any momentum, while refusing to answer questions and even show up to debates.”
The ad has not been officially released. Schulz said Thursday afternoon it will launch July 5 and is called “Meet Dan.”
“Two weeks ago, our campaign predicted that national Democrats would spend millions of dollars to prop up fringe candidate Dan Cox so they would not would have to face me in the general election,” Schulz said Thursday at a news conference outside the Maryland State House.
“They’re afraid of losing four out of the last six governor’s races here in Maryland,” Schulz continued. “And because of this, they’re willing to support a lying conspiracy theorist like Dan Cox … just so they can take back the Maryland State House.”
Cox himself and some of his supporters were at Schulz’s news conference, sometimes observing and sometimes trying to engage the participants.
Calling Cox a “self-proclaimed freedom fighter” and “Mr. Anti-Democrat,” Schulz challenged him to “denounce these actions by his own Democratic allies,” alleging he is “relying” on “progressive donors” in the Democratic Governors Association.
Speaking to reporters after the news conference, Cox said “this whole thing about the DGA is a farce” and that he had nothing to do with the ad purchase.
Such unusual and somewhat risky cross-party spending by the governor’s association and other Democratic groups has been common this year. They have invested millions supporting far-right Republicans in close primaries in California, Colorado, Illinois and elsewhere. In Pennsylvania, Democrats put out ads boosting conservative state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Cox ally who went on to win his party’s gubernatorial nomination but is widely seen as at risk of losing in November to the Democratic nominee.
“They’re only doing that for one reason. They’re doing it because they know I am the only candidate that can beat a tax-and-spend liberal in November,” Schulz said in a video posted to Twitter on Wednesday night.
After Thursday’s news conference, Cox called allegations that he couldn’t win “a total misrepresentation of the truth.”
“We have a path to victory,” he said. “[Voters] want candidates who actually come out among the people and are willing to debate and answer questions.”
Maryland Policy & Politics
Nine Democratic candidates are seeking their party’s gubernatorial nomination on July 19 for the chance to match up against the Republican nominee on Nov. 8.
Tensions were high Thursday afternoon even before Schulz’s news conference, as people with Cox signs attempted to stand among her supporters. After a verbal exchange with Schulz campaign strategist Doug Mayer, the Cox supporters were moved to the side of the outdoor podium. Several stood behind Schulz’s band of supporters, chanting “Debate Dan Cox” as she delivered her remarks.
Cox and Robin Ficker, another Republican gubernatorial candidate in attendance Thursday, said Schulz refuses to debate. Schulz refuted their claim in a conversation with reporters after the news conference.
Hogan, who also attended the event, said during the event that Cox is a “QAnon conspiracy theorist,” referencing the delegate’s tweet calling former Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor” and Cox’s presence in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021. Cox has said he was not at the Capitol that day, but did help arrange buses to transport constituents to Trump’s White House rally.
“Defamation, sir,” Cox fired back.
Asked after the news conference how he had been defamed, Cox said he is not a member of QAnon.
“He called me a QAnon, or whatever he said, and that’s a lie,” Cox told reporters. “It’s an absolute falsity.”