Elections officials are still scanning ballots and tallying votes from Maryland’s primary election, but there are already clear lessons learned from how people voted.

Maryland Republicans prefer Trump’s brand of politics

Dan Cox ran away with the Republican nomination for governor, besting Kelly Schulz, 54% to 42% in what many viewed as a proxy war between former President Donald J. Trump (who endorsed Cox) and outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan (who endorsed Schulz).

Hogan and Trump have never been allies, but because presidents and governors are elected on different cycles, most Maryland Republicans had voted for both men in different years. And both maintained high approval ratings among Republicans.

But given the chance to select a Trump-endorsed candidate or a Hogan-endorsed candidate, Maryland Republicans went for the Trump candidate and it wasn’t even close. Cox won all but three jurisdictions — Baltimore City, Howard and Kent — and the vast majority of precincts across the state.

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There was a similar but lower-profile Republican matchup in the primary for attorney general. Although Trump and Hogan didn’t get involved in that race, the winner was Michael Peroutka, a right-wing candidate who once belonged to the Southern secessionist group the League of the South and promises to “bring God back to our great State of Maryland.” The loser was Jim Shalleck, a former prosecutor and elections official who had a tough-on-crime message.

Tough-on-crime prevails in state’s attorney races

Voters in Baltimore City and Baltimore County had options when picking their next chief prosecutors: Go tough on crime, or promote progressive policies that some say are too soft?

In the city, voters rejected Marilyn Mosby, a two-term state’s attorney who has served while violent crime and murders have continued to plague the city. Voters in the Democratic primary went instead with Ivan Bates, who pledged to reverse Mosby’s blanket policy of not prosecuting low-level, non-violent offenses such as drug possession, prostitution and trespassing.

“People are really afraid in this city, and crime is out of control. We had a message that resonated,” Bates told The Baltimore Banner shortly after his victory was announced. Bates is favored in the November general election, where he’ll face independent candidate Roya Hanna.

In Baltimore County’s Democratic primary for state’s attorney, incumbent Scott Shellenberger had a reputation for being tough on crime, although there have been questions about how often his office has declined to prosecute rape and sexual assault cases. Robbie Leonard challenged Shellenberger with a more progressive platform and criticism of Shellenberger’s tenure in office. Voters in the county saw their mailboxes filled with flyers for each candidate.

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As vote-counting continued Monday morning, Shellenberger had widened his margin over Leonard — although neither candidate has declared victory or conceded defeat. The winner will take on Republican James A. Haynes, who was comfortably ahead of Deborah Hill.

There will be new state’s attorneys in Harford County, as challenger Alison M. Healey beat incumbent Albert Peisinger in the Republican primary, and Carroll County, where incumbent Allan J. Culver did not run for re-election and Haven Shoemaker won the Republican primary. There are no Democrats listed to run for state’s attorney in either county.

Money can’t buy you a victory

The top Democrats running for governor — winner Wes Moore, runner-up Tom Perez and Peter Franchot in third — each spent multiple millions of dollars on their campaigns. Moore and Perez had political action committees independently spending money to boost their profiles and turn out voters, as well.

Those three finished well ahead of all the other candidates: Moore with 33%, Perez with 29% and Franchot with 22%.

But others in the 10-candidate Democratic field also spent significant sums of money on ads, mailers and staff, only to garner just a tiny sliver of the electorate.

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Doug Gansler, a former state attorney general, boosted his fundraising with an $800,000 loan to his campaign in May. He ran a striking TV commercial focused on fighting crime that opened with a depiction of a carjacking. He only won 3.71% of the vote.

John King, a former U.S. secretary of education, didn’t rely on personal loans to raise more than $3.5 million over the course of the campaign season. He also finished far back in the field, with 3.48%.

Jon Baron loaned his campaign $1.7 million in January and still had more than $300,000 in the bank heading into the final weeks of the campaign. The policy expert ran cheeky TV commercials that featured him shaving, walking up a down escalator and riding a tandem bike with his running mate. But Baron’s efforts translated into just 1.76% of the vote.

Baron finished behind Ashwani Jain, who ran an all-volunteer campaign on a small budget and nabbed 1.97% of the vote.

And they were all bested by fourth-place finisher Rushern L. Baker III, who suspended his campaign in June and wasn’t actively courting voters in the final weeks.

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Money didn’t win the day on the Republican side, either, where winner Dan Cox was outspent by second-place finisher Kelly Schulz.

Democrats embrace diversity

The slate of Democratic candidates for statewide offices would break all sorts of barriers if they’re elected. The positions of governor, comptroller and attorney general have all been filled by white men in the state’s history.

Moore, who is Black, would be the first person of color elected governor, should he win. (The last two Democratic nominees have also been Black, but they lost: Ben Jealous in 2018 and Anthony Brown in 2014.)

Brown is on the ballot again this year as the Democratic nominee for attorney general, and likewise would be the first person of color in that role.

Brooke Lierman, the Democratic nominee for comptroller, would be the first woman to hold that office if elected.

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Moore’s nominee for lieutenant governor, Aruna Miller, is a woman who immigrated from India as a child. Maryland has already had multiple men of color and one woman as lieutenant governor, but never someone of South Asian heritage.

The Republicans have put forward a statewide slate of candidates who are all white: Cox for governor, Peroutka for attorney general, Barry Glassman for comptroller and Gordana Schifanelli, an immigrant from Eastern Europe, for lieutenant governor.


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Pamela Wood covers Maryland politics and government. She previously reported for The Baltimore Sun, The Capital and other Maryland newspapers. A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, she lives in northern Anne Arundel County.

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