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Trump-backed candidate for Maryland governor wins Republican primary

The two most reactionary candidates beat moderately conservative Republicans in the Maryland gubernatorial and attorney general primaries.

BALTIMORE (CN) — The Maryland GOP primary elections for governor and attorney general have been called in favor of Dan Cox and Michael Peroutka, the two most right-wing candidates on the ballot, sparking joy among Democrats and angst among moderate Republicans.

“Trump lost Republicans the White House, the House, and the Senate,” Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican who endorsed his Lieutenant Governor Kelly Schulz in the gubernatorial race, tweeted Tuesday morning. “He’s selfishly colluded with national Democrats to cost us a Governor’s seat in Maryland where I ran 45 points ahead of him. He’s fighting for his ego. We’re fighting to win, and the fight goes on.”

Cox, a Donald Trump-endorsed state delegate who tried to impeach Hogan last year, was ahead of Schulz 56% to 40% —about 38,000 votes— as of Wednesday, with counting of mailed ballots scheduled to begin Thursday morning at 10 a.m.

Hogan vetoed a bill that would have allowed absentee ballots to be counted earlier, making Maryland the only state in which election results are delayed by late counting.

Schulz has not conceded the race.

“This is not over by a longshot,” she said on election night. “There are over 50% of the votes that still need to be counted, and likely over 40,000 absentee ballots. And the fact is that all of the ballots won’t be counted until Thursday. We know this going into today. The only thing that matters in American democracy is counting every vote and counting them correctly. And in America and in Maryland we count every vote.” 

The Schulz campaign did not return a call requesting comment Wednesday.

On the Democratic side, political newcomer Wes Moore is leading over his closest rival gubernatorial candidate, former U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, with about 37% of the vote to Perez’s 27%.

In the GOP race for attorney general, Peroutka, a former Anne Arundel County councilman who ran for president under the Constitution Party in 2004, led Jim Shalleck by about 58% to 40%, while Congressman Michael Brown led former district court Judge Katie Curran O’Malley by about 60% to 40% on the Democratic side.

Maryland has not had a Republican attorney general since 1954. 

Peroutka pledged to restore “constitutional” fealty to state government and to criminally prosecute officials who fail to toe his line. He told a crowd of supporters recently that he drafted the articles of impeachment against Hogan that Cox introduced. The outgoing governor has been a vocal Trump critic.

Cox bused in attendees to the Jan. 6, 2021 “Stop The Steal” rally that devolved into a riot at the U.S. Capitol and attempted coup. He tweeted “Pence is a traitor” during the riot, but later disavowed “mob violence” and blamed left-wing “antifa” for the attack, without evidence. 

Cox denies that President Joe Biden won the  2020 election and his supporters continue to press local boards of election with baseless claims of election fraud.

Many of Peroutka's supporters feel the same way.

“The [2020] results showed a 34% increase in Democratic votes in Harford County when the population only increased by 2% or 3%. This is an anomaly!” voter and activist Dan Brulinski said before a Peroutka campaign stop in late June, citing the work of a former Army colonel and a local Facebook group called We The People. 

Brulinski and other members of the local election integrity group attended several monthly meetings of the county election board, demanding the removal of 4,700 voters from the rolls and an investigation into alleged fraud. They are frustrated by the board’s lack of action on the issue. 

Members of the group also expressed deep concerns over “drop boxes” and mail-in ballots, making them unlikely to vote absentee. 

Even so, “there’s no doubt in my mind [Cox] won,” said John Dedie, a political science professor at the Community College of Baltimore County.

“It’s true that Republicans don’t trust the system, but they also go on vacation, and they want to get [voting] out of the way," he said of GOP voters casting absentee ballots.

Dedie says if Schulz overtakes Cox through absentee votes, the MAGA crowd will claim it’s another “stolen election.”

“If Schulz should pull this out, it would be – I’m going to clean up this quote – it would be a cluster disaster," he said.

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