Voting booths in a line.

With just a few weeks until the conclusion of Maryland’s Republican and Democratic primaries, and with early voting starting on Thursday, polls show many voters are still undecided in the governor’s race.

Among likely voters polled by Goucher College in partnership with The Baltimore Banner and WYPR, 44% of Republicans and 35% of Democrats were undecided about their choice for governor.

Here are some ways to differentiate among the leading candidates, depending on which issues are important to you. Further information from these and other candidates in their own words is available at The Baltimore Banner’s 2022 Voter Guide.

Protestors gather outside the Supreme Court after the announcement that the court had overturned Roe v. Wade.

Abortion

Access to abortion care has risen to be a top public policy debate, following a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that overturned the Roe v. Wade case which had protected reproductive rights nationally. Maryland has a state law that protects reproductive rights, but those rights are not in the state constitution.

The top Democratic candidates have all issued statements or said in interviews that they’ll work to strengthen protections for abortion care in Maryland.

The following top-polling Democrats have said they’d support an amendment to the state constitution guaranteeing reproductive choice: Doug Gansler, Peter Franchot, John King, Wes Moore, Tom Perez.

Most of them also support other ways to ensure access to abortion care, such as using state money to train medical providers and provide security to clinics.

King is endorsed by Pro-Choice Maryland.

On the Republican side, Dan Cox has made unsuccessful efforts in the past to limit abortion access and said he “absolutely would continue to support those policies of defending and protecting all life.” Cox is endorsed by Maryland Right to Life.

Republican Kelly Schulz has said she is “personally pro-life” but would not seek to make any changes to laws governing abortion care in Maryland.

Public education

Maryland lawmakers previously approved an ambitious and expensive plan for improving the quality of the state’s public schools known as the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. The goal is to restore the state to the top of the rankings of public schools and prepare children for adulthood, whether they choose college or a career after high school graduation.

Among Democrats, Franchot previously expressed skepticism about the Blueprint plan and spoke out against it, but now says he’s committed to funding and implementing it.

King wants to go beyond the Blueprint with more programs focused on closing “equity gaps,” which are disparities in educational success between different racial and economic groups, saying it should be “the floor, not the ceiling.” King also is pledging to support increasing taxes paid by large corporations to pay for the Blueprint’s programs.

Gansler says the most important facets of the Blueprint are expanding preschool to all children and improving teacher recruitment and retention by paying them better. He proposes putting more police officers in schools.

Moore, who is endorsed by the state teachers union, said he’ll work closely with local governments to make sure they are on board with their commitments to the Blueprint.

Perez says he’ll be “a thought leader and partner” to ensure the Blueprint is successfully implemented.

Republicans Cox and Schulz have advanced platforms that focus on issues such as expanding school choice and charter schools and supporting police officers in schools.

Schulz has promised to continue “record funding” for public schools and said she will “ensure resources go to the classroom.”

Cox has criticized the teaching about racism in schools as well as “sexual indoctrination” that he believes is happening in the classroom. He voted against the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.

Public safety and violence

Crime and public safety is a top concern among both Republican and Democratic voters, according to new polling from the Goucher College Poll in partnership with The Baltimore Banner and WYPR. Gun violence and homicides are of particular concern in Baltimore, which saw 41 homicides in the month of June alone.

Most Democrats have embraced a strategy that mixes violence prevention and intervention efforts with improved policing. Most also want to improve efforts to get illegal guns off the streets and better staff the state’s Division of Parole and Probation.

Gansler has leaned into the issue of crime in Baltimore the most, pledging to use state funding to hire 1,000 local police officers across the state, most of them in Baltimore. He also pledges to pay for 10,000 more streetlights in the city and wants to have an armed police officer in every school across the state.

Among Republicans, Schulz has promised to support police officers with better pay and training, push for tougher sentences for violent criminals and to further cut taxes on retirement income of police officers.

Cox wants to put the Baltimore City government into receivership and “take back the Inner Harbor on Day One,” though it’s not clear how that process would work or if it is legally achievable. He’d also push for a return of “broken windows” policing, which theorizes that allowing signs of minor crime or disorder, such as graffiti, to go uncorrected encourages other crime. In Baltimore, similar policies preceded the U.S. Justice Department’s concluding in 2016 that the city police department’s enforcement was biased against Black residents.

Construction on the Maryland State House in Annapolis began in 1772 and it's the oldest state capital building in the nation still in continuous legislative use. The building's dome is undergoing a rehabilitation project.

Experience and leadership

Do you like a candidate with lots of government and political experience? Or do you prefer someone who is new to politics and brings expertise from other sectors? Someone who is in with the establishment, or someone who will shake things up?

Among Democrats, Franchot has the most conventional experience in Maryland politics: 20 years in the House of Delegates and four, four-year terms as the state comptroller. He’s endorsed by more than a dozen state lawmakers as well as local elected officials.

Perez has experience at multiple levels of government, having served on the Montgomery County Council, as the state labor secretary, as the U.S. labor secretary and as an assistant attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice. He also headed the Democratic National Committee. He’s been endorsed by several major labor unions, progressive organizations and three county executives.

Gansler has deep roots in Maryland government, serving eight years as the state attorney general and eight years as state’s attorney in Montgomery County. He’s also worked as a federal prosecutor, and his most recent work as a private practice attorney has focused on helping attorneys general in various states with complex cases.

Moore has one year of direct government experience as a White House fellow stationed at the U.S. Department of State early in his career. He has nonprofit and private sector experience heading the Robin Hood Foundation in New York, founding a local education company called BridgeEdU, working as an investment banker and writing multiple books. He also served in the U.S. Army, reaching the rank of captain and serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He’s backed by the state teachers union, the presiding officers of the General Assembly and two county executives.

King is a former teacher who was the U.S. secretary of education and the top education official for New York state, but he has not held positions in Maryland education or government. He founded a nonprofit called Strong Future Maryland that worked on local issues, and he has testified before Maryland lawmakers. He’s currently on leave from a position as president of the Education Trust, a national nonprofit organization. He’s endorsed by Pro-Choice Maryland, the Sierra Club’s Maryland Chapter and Our Revolution.

On the Republican side, Schulz spent seven years in Gov. Larry Hogan’s Cabinet, first as labor secretary and later as commerce secretary. She also served four years as a state delegate. Before entering politics, she worked in the private sector in real estate and as a program manager for a defense contractor and was a managing partner of a cybersecurity firm. She’s backed by many establishment Republican lawmakers, sheriffs and Hogan himself.

Cox has been a state delegate for the past four years, serving on the Judiciary Committee. He’s also an attorney in private practice. In 2016, he ran for Congress and won the Republican primary but lost in the general election to Democratic U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin. Cox is endorsed by former President Donald J. Trump.

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