Nearly a third of likely Democratic voters and more than 40% of likely Republican voters surveyed in a poll for Baltimore Sun Media and the University of Baltimore weren’t sure who they’ll pick as their nominee for the next governor of Maryland.
That made “Undecided/Not sure” the leader on both sides of the new poll published Sunday. It’s the first independent, statewide poll published ahead of the July 19 primary.
Among the candidates, State Comptroller Peter Franchot was the Democratic leader with 20%. Wes Moore and Tom Perez were in second place at 15% and 12%, respectively, in the poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. The GOP leader was former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz at 27%, with her closest challenger being Del. Dan Cox at 21%. The GOP side of the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.
But the level of indecision among the nearly 1,000 people surveyed, as well as indications from those voters who had picked a favorite that they could well change their minds, adds up to mass of uncertainty among Marylanders — and a warning sign of just how much candidates still need to do to introduce themselves to the electorate and get people to cast ballots by midsummer.
Here are some other takeaways from the poll by OpinionWorks of Annapolis for Baltimore Sun Media and the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs and Schaefer Center for Public Policy:
Ones to watch
It showed a plurality of Franchot’s support was from white voters over the age of 65, like himself, according to those who responded to demographic questions. The support for Moore and Perez spread out more evenly across age ranges and races, though Perez’s voters also skewed slightly older, the poll found. If elected, Moore would be the state’s first Black governor, while Perez would be Maryland’s first Hispanic governor.
Also, many of Franchot’s supporters indicated they’d made up their minds about him within the last month (28%) — or even earlier (45%). Moore and Perez each had about a third of their supporters join them within the last month.
Meanwhile, Moore picked up 24% of his support in the last week or two before the poll, compared with 13% for Franchot, and 12% in the last few days before the survey, compared with 5% for Franchot. The share of Perez’s support that’s new, a possible sign of momentum for him, is even greater: 34% picked him within the last week or two before the question was asked and 18% within the last few days before the poll.
“The two candidates to watch right now are definitely Perez and Moore,” said Steve Raabe, president of OpinionWorks.
However, Roger Hartley, dean of University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs, said it’s “really significant” that Franchot is also the second choice for a plurality of voters — with 17% saying they’d pick him after their first choice. That’s also where Perez shows signs of strength over Moore. Fourteen percent said Perez was their second choice compared with 8% for Moore.
Perez’s voters were also slightly more “firm” in their support, at 32%, versus 26% for Moore and 25% for Franchot.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s an indicator that he’s hitting a ceiling right now,” Hartley said of Moore, while emphasizing that the poll is “a snapshot in time with 30-some percent undecided.”
No coasting for Hogan’s GOP pick
Despite a fundraising advantage and support from Maryland’s incumbent governor, Schulz had a narrow lead over Cox, and her supporters are slightly less “firm” in their decision than Cox’s voters, according to the poll. About 38% of Cox’s voters say they are firmly behind him, while 33% say the same for Schulz.
GOP Gov. Larry Hogan has endorsed Schulz, a former state lawmaker who he elevated to two cabinet positions during his first seven years in office. Cox, a first-term delegate, is endorsed by former Republican President Donald Trump.
“Schulz can’t afford to coast at all,” Hartley said.
“There’s still an opportunity for this race to tighten up and be a really strong one,” he said.
As the Maryland primary nears, expect national attention to grow over the pending result, which will be taken as yet another measure of Trump’s waxing or waning strength within the GOP.
Maybe, maybe not
Maryland Policy & Politics
A whopping 76% of Democrats polled said they could change their mind or weren’t sure about whether their support for the candidate they’d picked was firm.
Republicans weren’t feeling much more confident, with only 34% describing as firm their support for a candidate.
On the matter of Franchot’s successor
Voter engagement ebbed even further than in the governor’s race when regarding the down-ballot Democratic race for comptroller, the portion of the poll published Monday shows.
Baltimore state Del. Brooke E. Lierman has a nine-point edge over Bowie Mayor Timothy J. Adams. However, 52% of likely Democratic voters polled remained undecided.
Among poll respondents, Lierman had a significant edge over Adams among those who also support Franchot and scored nearly twice Adams’ support among women.
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman is unopposed on the Republican side. The eventual winner in November would fill the seat being vacated by Franchot, as he aspires to become governor after 16 years as comptroller.
The comptroller collects income taxes from Maryland, as well as taxing gasoline, alcohol and tobacco. The job also comes with a seat on the powerful, three-person Maryland Board of Public Works, which approves most state contracts worth more than $200,000.