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Some Maryland Republican candidates in Tuesday’s primary are counting on a ‘Trump effect’

Maryland state attorney general candidate Michael Anthony Peroutka recently received an email from a voter seeking information.

“He said, ‘I have just one question. Do you support [Donald] Trump?’ And my answer was ‘Yes, and here’s why,’” said Peroutka, a Republican who says he embraces the Republican former president’s “America First” agenda.

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Pat McDonough, a Republican candidate for Baltimore County executive, didn’t wait for voters to ask what he thought about the 45th president.

McDonough, a former state delegate and longtime Trump enthusiast, routinely hands out literature displaying photos of a smiling Trump alongside images of himself and others.

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“Trump is very popular,” he said.

Analysts predict Trump will have a sizable influence on GOP races in Tuesday’s Maryland primary. While there are always single-issue voters, this election includes voters — like the one who emailed Peroutka — who might be called single-candidate voters.

That single candidate is Trump, who was impeached twice in the Democratic-controlled U.S. House and lost the 2020 presidential election, but whose brand remains popular enough that many GOP voters still swear by him.

“I think the Trump effect is significant,” said Roger E. Hartley, dean of the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs.

The election features a number of Republicans for various offices eager to associate themselves with Trump in some way. State Del. Dan Cox, who is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination, is the only Maryland candidate known to have actually received Trump’s endorsement.

The idea is to attract voters like Thomas Beegan, 64, of Middle River, who said he heard in a news report this year that Cox had been endorsed by Trump.

“It caught my attention. That was my reason for picking Dan Cox,” said Beegan, who works at a glass replacement company.

He said some of his colleagues also planned to vote for Cox because of Trump.

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Trump is particularly influential in Republican primaries, said Todd Eberly, a political-science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

“The people who turn out in primaries are the most passionate and committed, and that would help the Trumpists,” Eberly said.

But there is risk for Trump loyalists who win Tuesday’s primary and then would face a general election open to all voters in a state where Trump got just 32% percent of Maryland’s vote against Democrat Joe Biden in 2020. Democrats hold a 2-1 voter registration advantage in the state.

“It’s hard for me to even think of a competitive race in Maryland where Trump’s support is anything other than a hindrance,” Eberly said of the general election.

That potential dichotomy — Trump as a plus for Republicans in July, but baggage in November — makes the subject of the former president a sensitive one within the GOP.

Small business owner Nicolee Ambrose, who represents Maryland on the Republican National Committee, said, “No one has even announced yet” when asked recently whether she would support Trump if he runs for president in 2024.

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Ambrose, a candidate for Baltimore County Democrat C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger’s congressional seat, actively supported Trump in 2020. She said she would rather talk about issues — such as gas prices — than personalities.

“I cannot wait to talk about issues all year long,” said Ambrose, who is facing a handful of challengers in the primary.

State Del. Neil Parrott paused when asked if there might be more risk than benefit for a GOP candidate to be aligned with Trump through the general election.

“I think that’s up to the voters to decide how they want to handle that,” said Parrott, a Trump backer who is among six Republicans vying for the seat of Democratic Rep. David Trone, which extends from Montgomery County into Western Maryland.

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“I think two years ago that would have been a fair statement,” Parrott said. “But now what we’re seeing is Joe Biden and the Democrats in Congress … are just destroying our economy and we need huge changes.”

A wild card in Trump’s popularity is the House committee that has been conducting public hearings since early June into the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters hoping to halt the counting of presidential electoral votes. Committee Democrats say the evidence shows a president recklessly trying in various ways to overturn the results of an election despite being told by aides there was no evidence of fraud. Republicans in Washington have downplayed the sessions, and many have said they aren’t watching.

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Trump has often clashed with the more moderate, two-term Republican Gov. Larry Hogan over the direction of the national GOP.

The Republican gubernatorial primary field includes a Hogan-backed candidate, Kelly Schulz, against the Trump-endorsed Cox.

Dirk Haire, the state Republican Party chairman, said it would be unfair to assume the party is torn between Trump and Hogan, who is term-limited from seeking reelection.

“This [division] is all a media creation,” Haire said. “The vast majority of Maryland Republicans are supportive of both of them. Each of them has a small number of supporters who don’t like the other, but it’s a small number on both sides.”

Haire said elections ultimately hinge on the effectiveness of the candidates and that endorsements won’t change that dynamic “no matter whether it’s Donald Trump, Larry Hogan or any other Republican high-level elected officeholder.”


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