Amid the beer drinking and crab picking at one of the largest crab feasts in Maryland, two of the top candidates vying to be the next governor had a rare interaction — as the current governor glad-handed his way through an appreciative crowd.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox stood outside his party’s tent at the J. Millard Tawes Crab & Clam Bake in Crisfield on Wednesday and watched as his Democratic opponent, Wes Moore, made his way through a crowd of well-wishers.

Cox approached Moore.

“All right, man, good to see you,” Moore said as the two shook hands.

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“Where were you at Morgan State last night?” Cox asked, referencing a candidate forum that he attended solo Tuesday night after Moore declined.

One of Moore’s aides interrupted, saying the candidate had to keep moving. Moore repeated it was good to see Cox and moved on.

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With that, the top two candidates, who have been talking plenty about each other in recent weeks, went their separate ways. It’s possible they might not share a space again until Oct. 12, when they’re scheduled for a televised debate.

Moore, a former nonprofit executive and bestselling author, is leading Cox, a lawyer and state delegate, both in fundraising and polling. Moore has a 53% to 31% advantage among likely voters surveyed by Goucher College Poll in partnership with The Baltimore Banner and WYPR radio.

The two have leveled accusations through interviews with reporters, social media posts and statements. Moore has raised concerns that Cox is dangerous to democracy, noting Cox’s efforts on behalf of former President Donald J. Trump in Pennsylvania in 2020. Cox is also challenging a plan to count Maryland’s mail ballots as they come in this fall, which Moore has suggested is an attempt to undermine faith in the elections system — and perhaps the results.

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“My opponent still has not accepted the results of the 2020 election,” Moore told reporters before his encounter with Cox at the crab feast. “So I don’t know why we’re waiting on him to accept the results of 2022. ... I believe democracy is something that’s always worth fighting for, and I would hope that the nominee of a major party would do the same.”

Cox, meanwhile, has not said clearly that he’ll accept the election results and insists his court challenge is a matter of making sure elections are conducted properly. He’s attempted to ding Moore for agreeing to only one debate and alleged Moore wants to “defund” the police, though that’s not part of Moore’s policy platforms.

“He wants to export the Baltimore crime throughout the state,” Cox told reporters after his brief exchange with Moore. “He’s against the police. He said not only does he want to defund the police, he wants to indict the systems. That’s not how we do policing.”

As Moore and Cox separately shook hands and worked the crowds, the current governor, Republican Larry Hogan, was all smiles as he made his way through the tents and tables at Somers Cove Marina.

Hogan, whose father was a congressman and Prince George’s County executive, said he recalled attending his first Tawes crab feast when he was about 12 years old.

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Maryland politicians flock to the crab feast to pay their respects to Eastern Shore voters and the beloved blue crab, something of a political pilgrimage and rite of passage for those who aspire to become governor.

“I love it and I’ll keep coming back. But you know, it is a little bit nostalgic,” Hogan said.

Hogan has been weighing a potential run for president in 2024, visiting in other states and partaking in political traditions, including the Iowa State Fair. The Baltimore Banner asked him how Tawes lines up against other political traditions.

“This is an iconic, very special tradition,” Hogan said. “It’s not quite as big as the Iowa State Fair, but it’s really meaningful to anybody in Maryland, and it’s a must-do thing if you’re involved in politics here.”

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