Maryland’s Republican Party just got turned on its head.
Del. Dan Cox, a far-right conservative endorsed by former President Donald Trump, had the victory of the night in Tuesday’s primary as he defeated GOP Gov. Larry Hogan’s hand-picked successor, former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz.
After eight years of a moderate Republican governor — one who many Marylanders still give high marks — Cox represents a sharp turn for some conservatives in the state.
Here are five things to know about, potentially, Maryland’s next governor.
Cox received an early, and, at least in some circles, highly coveted, endorsement from the former president back in 2021.
Trump described his support for the first-term state lawmaker then, and for months to come, as tied to both Cox’s loyalty to his “Make America Great Again” platform and to Trump’s disdain for Hogan, who has routinely criticized the ex-president.
Throughout the Republican gubernatorial primary campaign, Cox repeatedly highlighted the endorsement and he held a telephone “rally” with Trump in the final week of the race. Trump urged listeners on the call to turn out for early voting or on Tuesday, even while casting doubt about how the votes would be counted.
“I know the state so well. I know so many people. I don’t believe the elections are straight in the state — but we can say that about a lot of states and Dan’s looking into it very strongly and he’s really been at the forefront,” Trump said on the call.
Election fraud claims
On the election-denial front, Cox continues to support Trump’s baseless theories of election fraud in 2020.
Cox attended the then-president’s Jan. 6, 2021, rally in Washington before the riot at the U.S. Capitol. Cox called Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor” for not overturning the results, but said he did not go to the Capitol as the event attendees turned violent.
He’s also questioned Maryland’s election processes, leading to some concern before Tuesday’s primary that he would claim fraud if he lost.
On the campaign trail this year, he’s said Democratic President Joe Biden’s overwhelming win against Trump in Maryland in 2020 was not really as large as it was, though he has not cited specific evidence of fraud.
Abortion, guns and COVID-19
While Hogan won statewide twice in Maryland by avoiding typical conservative messaging on issues such as abortion and guns, Cox took the opposite approach.
As a delegate in Annapolis, he sponsored bills to severely restrict abortion access, expand access to guns and outlaw all kinds of future pandemic measures. None of those bills became law in a heavily Democratic General Assembly. The legislature would also be expected to block his attempts to implement such laws if he wins in November.
Cox also attempted to impeach Hogan over his COVID-19 mitigation measures and railed against the teaching of transgender issues in schools.
At his victory party Tuesday night, Cox told his supporters: “We will never again give over our bodies, our churches and our businesses to a lockdown state.”
QAnon and prophecies
Hogan took to calling Cox a “conspiracy-theory-believing QAnon whack-job.”
Cox, while typically avoiding reporters’ requests for interviews and comment, has denied that he believes in conspiracy theories.
But he spoke at an April 23 gathering in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that was filled with QAnon themes and “prophecies.” Followers of QAnon believe a global cabal of Democrats engages in child sex trafficking and other crimes.
Cox’s speech focused on election fraud. He returned to the stage for a rousing group prayer led by a self-described prophet who had just told the audience that Trump, “the real president,” was coming back. The prophet, Julie Green, grabbed Cox’s face and preached, The Baltimore Sun previously reported.
Law, politics & family
Maryland Policy & Politics
Cox, 47, is a lawyer who was elected in 2018 to a seat in the House of Delegates, representing parts of Frederick and Carroll counties. He served on the House Judiciary Committee.
He was born in Washington, D.C., and graduated from University of Maryland University College, with a bachelor’s degree in government and politics. He earned his law degree from Regent University.
In addition to teaching high school with a Christian organization, he worked as a real estate agent and for another attorney before opening his own legal practice, according to his official state biography.
He and his wife have 10 children, including at least two who worked on his campaign, and a baby.
A winning path for the fall?
It’s unclear if and how Maryland Republicans will rally around Cox as the nominee atop their ticket in November.
Establishment members of the GOP — including Republican leadership in the General Assembly — overwhelmingly backed Schulz as their candidate in the primary, showing loyalty to the brand of politics Hogan cemented over the past seven-plus years. For instance, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, the GOP nominee for state comptroller, attended Schulz’s election night party.
Schulz and Hogan described Cox as unelectable statewide in a general election, when the winner will need the support of moderates and some Democrats, as Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-1 in Maryland.