Wes Moore swayed in the pew, hands lifted as he sang along with the choir: “When nothing else could help, love lifted me!”
The Democratic nominee for governor of Maryland spent the last Sunday of the fall campaign worshipping at a pair of Prince George’s County churches and urging congregants to vote on Tuesday.
“Generations came before us so we could have Tuesday,” said Moore, who hopes to become the state’s first Black governor, when he was given the microphone at Mt. Ennon Baptist Church. “Generations fought so we could have Tuesday. Generations bled so we could have Tuesday. Generations have marched so we could have Tuesday. Generations have sacrificed so we could have Tuesday.”
Moore’s pitch to the largely Black congregation at Mt. Ennon was among the final speeches he’ll give in a campaign that concludes with traditional Election Day voting on Tuesday. Moore faces Republican Dan Cox, a far-right candidate who has denied the 2020 election results and has the backing of former President Donald Trump. Moore was joined Sunday by his running mate, Aruna Miller; his wife, Dawn Flythe Moore; and comptroller candidate Brooke Lierman.
Moore is heavily favored to defeat Cox, as the Democrat holds a significant lead in independent polls and has far more money to continue saturating the airwaves with positive ads. Maryland leans Democratic, though voters have elected moderate Republican Larry Hogan to two terms. (There also are gubernatorial candidates on the ballot from the Green, Libertarian and Working Class parties.)
In an interview with The Baltimore Banner after the church service, Moore was both relaxed and optimistic — even as his aides tried to rush him to an SUV to trek to Harford County to greet Democratic volunteers knocking on doors.
“The state is ready for the voters to have their voices heard,” Moore said. “And I think this state is ready for us to go fast, to be bold, to stop being at each other’s throats. I think the state is ready to move forward together.”
While Moore is optimistic — and Democrats feel confident about his chance of victory — Cox is still fighting for votes.
Cox addressed about 100 supporters, many clad in blue campaign T-shirts, at a rally Sunday night at a fire hall in the town of Brunswick, about 20 minutes outside of Frederick.
WBAL Radio host Kim Klacik, a former Republican candidate for Congress, told the crowd that Cox has a chance to win.
“There’s a lot of people talking all the time, acting as though there’s such a wide margin in this race,” Klacik said. “I’ll tell you now, it’s not true.”
Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins sounded a similar theme: “I don’t believe in polls, but I read people. People are hungry for justice, for freedom, for law and order.”
Cox ascended the stage as The Animals’ 1964 rock classic, “House of the Rising Sun,” played over the speakers. He tossed T-shirts into the crowd before launching into a 35-minute speech.
He described the campaign as “on the cusp of victory.”
Cox made promises that were peppered by applause: appointing board of education members “that honor parents’ rights,” appointing a health secretary to “honor our liberties,” ending “pernicious gender indoctrination” in schools, cutting taxes, and promoting “a policy of safety for the entire state of Maryland.”
Cox said supporters need to “flood the polls” on Tuesday to ensure victory.
“I’m just fine with the Democrats believing these so-called polls, because we know otherwise and it’s very good where we are,” Cox said.
Election Day voting will take place from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m., and both Cox and Moore have been working to sway voters in the final days.
Already, nearly 755,000 Marylanders have cast their ballots through in-person early voting or mail ballots, and there are still about 266,000 mail ballots that have yet to be returned. There are about 4.1 million eligible voters in Maryland.
Moore and Cox are competing to succeed Hogan, a Republican who is finishing his second term and contemplating his next step — possibly a run for president in 2024.
Moore, 44, is a first-time political candidate best known for his bestselling memoir, “The Other Wes Moore.” He’s also worked as an investment banker, founded an education company in Baltimore, worked as CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, and served in the military, reaching the rank of captain in the U.S. Army Reserves and serving in Afghanistan.
Cox, 48, is a lawyer who has served one term in the Maryland House of Delegates representing parts of Frederick and Carroll counties. He made a name for himself fighting coronavirus restrictions, including an unsuccessful federal lawsuit against Hogan and an unsuccessful attempt to impeach the governor.
As Cox makes a final push for votes, his campaign team has not advertised many of his activities and routinely ignores inquiries from the press.
However, his social media accounts show some events after they happened, including marching in a Veterans Day parade before Sunday’s rally and visiting small businesses in Prince George’s County on Saturday.
Moore kept a busy schedule Saturday, from a rally with immigrant activists in the morning to the annual tug of war between the Annapolis neighborhoods of downtown and Eastport in the afternoon. After two church services on Sunday morning, he met up with Democratic volunteers in the afternoon.
The Democrat will cap his campaign with a rally at Bowie State University on Monday night, where he will be joined by President Joe Biden. Political experts believe Maryland may prove to be a rare bright spot for Democrats on what otherwise may be a tough Election Day. Cox has not announced a schedule for Monday.
Back at Mt. Ennon church on Sunday morning, Pastor Delman Coates made clear that the church wasn’t endorsing Moore’s campaign. But worshippers were excited to have Moore in their pews for the morning. One man greeted the candidate as “Governor Moore,” even as he acknowledged that Moore hadn’t won yet.
Gwendolyn Briley-Strand hurried to connect with Moore after services, having brought with her a copy of one of his books, “Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City,” for him to sign.
“It was just a blessing to see how warm he is and how genuine he is in person,” Briley-Strand said. “That matters.”
This article has been updated to correct the name of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church.