By BRIAN WITTE
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen won the Democratic nomination for his seat on Tuesday, defeating a little-known challenger just months after suffering a minor stroke.
Van Hollen will be the heavy favorite in November’s general election in the liberal state, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1.
In other top contests in Maryland’s primary election, voters were selecting nominees in the highly competitive contest to replace Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who is prohibited from running for a third consecutive term.
He has endorsed Kelly Schulz, who served as labor and commerce secretaries in his administration. Her top challenge in the Republican gubernatorial primary was from Dan Cox, a Donald Trump-backed state legislator who sued Hogan over his pandemic policies and later sought unsuccessfully to impeach him.
On the Democratic side, Tom Perez, a former U.S. labor secretary and former Democratic Party chair, has the backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a native daughter of Baltimore, while bestselling author Wes Moore has the support of Oprah Winfrey and U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat. Other top candidates include Comptroller Peter Franchot, former Attorney General Doug Gansler and former U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr.
The big-name endorsements in Maryland’s governor’s race illustrate the high stakes for both parties. Democrats see the contest as one of their best chances nationwide to flip a governor’s mansion in this year’s midterm elections, while Republicans want to cement the party’s hold on the office.
The Republican primary provides a potential 2024 preview of the appeal of candidates in the mold of Hogan and Trump, who offer competing visions for the future of the party.
Other top races include contests for U.S. House and attorney general. The state’s eight-member congressional delegation has an open seat in the Washington suburbs. And the daughter of the state’s former attorney general is vying for her father’s old job.
It could take days, or even longer, to determine the winners in the most closely contested races. That’s because Maryland law prohibits counties from opening mail ballots until the Thursday after election day.
Ten candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. Perez has support from labor unions, while Moore, the former CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty organization, has been endorsed by the state’s teachers union and the two top Maryland legislative leaders, House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson.
Franchot, who comfortably won four races to be the state’s tax collector, brings significant name recognition to the primary. Gansler, a longtime prosecutor, is running as a moderate. King served in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet.
Voter Laura Kretchman, a 41-year-old high school teacher, said Moore’s endorsement by the Maryland State Education Association helped her choose him. She said she’s impressed by Moore’s accomplishments after rising above childhood challenges and being raised by a single mom.
“I teach children at a school that also come from difficult upbringings, so I’d like to see maybe what he can bring to helping those students that are struggling and challenged,” said Kretchman, an Annapolis resident.
Other voters said they preferred a long resume of government service. Curtis Fatig, a 67-year-old voter in Annapolis, settled on Perez, who also worked on the Montgomery County Council, as Maryland’s secretary of labor and as the assistant attorney general for civil rights in Obama’s administration.
“He’s not a newcomer,” said Fatig.
At an elementary school in Silver Spring, many Democrats cast a ballot for governor with an eye toward November’s general election.
Retired high school teacher Tom Hilton, 75, said he viewed the Democratic primary field as “kind of a toss-up” but ultimately picked Franchot.
“Mainly for the financial parts,” Hilton said. “I think he’ll be a little bit more attuned to having a more secure financial future for Maryland.”
On the Republican side, Hogan has stood firmly behind Schulz, whom he sees as the strongest candidate to face a Democrat in November. Democrats seem to agree, with the Democratic National Committee plowing more than $1 million behind an ad intended to boost Cox in the Republican primary. It’s a tactic they’ve used elsewhere in an effort to face an easier opponent in the general election.
Hogan has criticized Cox for organizing busloads of Trump supporters to go to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, for the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Cox has said he didn’t go to the Capitol and left before the rioting began.
In a tweet he later deleted, Cox called then-Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor” for refusing to heed Trump’s demands not to certify the 2020 election. He apologized for it and denounced the attack on the Capitol.
Trump, meanwhile, has branded Schulz and Hogan as RINOs, or Republicans In Name Only, a term of derision reserved for party members who don’t fall in line behind him.
“Get rid of Shutdown RINO Larry Hogan who is trying to get another RINO into office, Kelly Schulz,” Trump said in a statement Monday.
Trump’s endorsement of Cox helped him earn 22-year-old Cameron Martin’s vote.
“The main reason was because he was endorsed by Trump,” Martin said, adding that he feels like Cox shares his Republican values and that “he will best represent me.”
Brandon D’costa, 18, said he voted for Schulz because he likes her plan to cut taxes and increase the number of police officers. He called her a “down-to-earth person” and said he believed she “can truly change the path of Maryland.”
Maryland’s only open congressional seat is in the 4th Congressional District, a heavily Democratic Black-majority district. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown is leaving to run for attorney general. Former Rep. Donna Edwards, who previously held the seat, faces former county prosecutor Glenn Ivey in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
The Democratic primary for attorney general has turned into a battle between former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s wife, Katie Curran O’Malley, who is a former Baltimore judge and the daughter of former Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., and Brown, O’Malley’s lieutenant governor who lost the 2014 governor’s race to Hogan.
The two are vying to replace Democratic Attorney General Brian Frosh, who is retiring. Maryland hasn’t had a Republican attorney general in nearly 70 years.
In other races, candidates are on the ballot for all 188 seats in the Maryland General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats.
The Maryland primary was delayed by three weeks because of lawsuits challenging the state’s congressional and state legislative maps.
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___ Associated Press writer Michael Kunzelman in Silver Spring contributed to this report.
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