Former President Donald Trump waded into the Maryland governor’s race Monday, endorsing Republican Del. Dan Cox in a statement that also criticized current Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
Trump called Cox “an America First Patriot” and said the state lawmaker is “MAGA all the way” in a statement released Monday evening by Trump’s Save America PAC. Cox, a right-wing conservative and full-throated backer of the ex-president, represents portions of Carroll and Frederick counties in the House of Delegates.
Trump indicated the “Make America Great Again” loyalty from Cox, who has parroted Trump’s false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, stands in stark contrast to the cool attitude toward Trump from Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, a Hogan ally currently seen by many as the early front-runner to land the GOP nomination.
In response to Trump’s statement, a Schulz spokesman said she “is proud to have stood next to Governor Hogan over the last eight years as they fought to make Maryland a better, safer, and more affordable place to live and raise a family.”
“Don’t be fooled — Kelly Schulz is the only Republican who can win this race and the only person running who has the strength and ability to prevent the Maryland legislature from passing any law and tax they wish,” said Mike Demkiw, the spokesman.
The former president blasted Hogan in making his endorsement of Cox, calling Hogan a “RINO” — a derisive moniker on the right for “Republicans In Name Only” — “who has been terrible for our Country and is against the America First Movement.”
Trump misspelled Schulz’s name and claimed Hogan “hand-picked” her.
Hogan ripped Cox on Tuesday, bashing the delegate as “a Q-anon whack job,” a reference to an outlandish far-right conspiracy theory popular among some die-hard supporters of the former president.
Hogan called it “a clear choice” between Schulz and Cox, noting that Cox tweeted “Pence is a traitor” while a violent mob was storming the U.S. Capitol, attacking police and smashing windows on Jan. 6 in an effort to stop then-Vice President Mike Pence from certifying the results of the presidential election.
The attack unfolded just after a rally at which Trump promoted conspiracy theories about election fraud. Cox attended the rally and organized buses to bring other Trump supporters from Maryland but has said he didn’t go to the Capitol or take part in the riot.
“The voters of Maryland are going to make their own decision about who they think the next governor should be,” Hogan said on Tuesday, “and I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be the crazy Q-anon guy.”
In response to the governor’s comments, Cox said in a statement that he supported Hogan until “until he began to attack our Party’s principles and its leader.”
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“Hogan’s childish, maliciously false and defamatory attacks against me from his second floor official offices represent all that Marylanders despise about politics,” Cox said.
Trump’s endorsement of Cox comes after Hogan spent part of the weekend criticizing Trump, especially his penchant for attacking fellow Republicans whom he dislikes, to fellow Republican governors at a meeting in Arizona, according to The New York Times. Hogan called those efforts “Trump cancel culture” and criticized them as “outrageous, unacceptable and bad for the party” in an interview with the newspaper.
Hogan, who is term-limited and not running for reelection, has been one of Trump’s most outspoken critics among Republican officeholders and frequently sparred with Trump during his four-year term in the White House.
Despite those clashes, Hogan easily secured the Republican nomination for reelection in 2018 and went on to handily claim a second term over Democrat Ben Jealous in the general election. Trump, although popular among Republican voters in Maryland, lost the heavily Democratic state by a landslide in both 2016 and 2020.
Dirk Haire, the chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, said Monday that he didn’t believe Trump’s endorsement of Cox — and his latest denouncement of Hogan — would cause deep divisions or problems among Republican voters in Maryland.
“Polling has consistently shown that most Maryland Republicans are very supportive of both President Trump and Governor Hogan,” Haire said in a phone interview Monday evening, adding that Republican voters look to Trump on national issues but hew to Hogan on state and local affairs. “That’s been the case for the last five years and I don’t know really that this would have any impact on that.”
“Republican voters are savvy and smart and I think at the end of the day they will come to the conclusion that they want a Marylander who is focused on state and local issues and not national issues,” Haire said.