Maryland Governor’s Democratic Lead Field Crowded, Experienced and ‘Mostly Unstable’ – Baltimore Sun

There are decades of government and public service experience among them. The ties they have established with constituents and relationships with powerful allies have deep roots. Millions of campaign donations are pouring in.

Maryland’s 10-man field is set in the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. But in such a field of viable candidates, the race is all but settled less than three months before the July 19 primary.

Democratic candidates — more than half of them reasonably well-funded or with substantial political resumes — are vying for the party’s nominee position in hopes of regaining the governorship after eight years under the Republican governor. Larry Hogan, who is completing his second and final term. .

Fundraising, recent sniping among candidates and a handful of internal campaign polls point to a few top potential candidates — but also underscore how fractured the field remains. Traditional party brokers did not coalesce behind a favorite because none emerged. Instead, candidates in a relatively deep field of potential suitors are always trying to build wider bases of support and break out of the pack.

For potential primary voters among Maryland’s 2.2 million registered Democrats, the real frontrunner at the minute is likely “undecided.”

“It’s wide open and I don’t think a lot of people are paying that close attention to this race right now,” said Mileah Kromer, a professor and sounder at Goucher College in Towson. Kromer suspects that more than half of the voters don’t lean towards any candidate at the moment.

Republicans, meanwhile, have fewer choices and a tough decision of their own with the dueling endorsements of Hogan and former President Donald Trump.

Although a handful of prominent Democratic politicians have pledged their support, many remain on the sidelines. It’s an indication that they’re still evaluating the field – or that those used to backing the winners can’t yet tell which is the most promising bandwagon to jump on board.

At an event in Baltimore on Monday that was unrelated to the campaign, U.S. senses Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and U.S. Representative Kweisi Mfume of Baltimore balked when asked who they might endorse. Van Hollen – an early supporter in 2018 of former Prince George’s County manager Rushern Baker III, who is running again – said the bigger field this time around led him to decide to wait and just support the main winner.

“At this point, I don’t see the need to do that,” Cardin said. “We have a large group of candidates vying for governor. I am comfortable supporting any of them.

The race is packed with candidates who have held statewide positions (Comptroller Peter Franchot and former Attorney General Doug Gansler); held prominent national positions (former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and former Secretary of Education John King, both of whom served under President Barack Obama); won a major local office and finished in the last primary as a runner-up (Baker), or has strong personal brands and fundraising sources (author and former nonprofit leader Wes Moore).

Four other candidates round out the field: Jon Baron, former federal civil servant and public policy advocate; Ashwani Jain, a former Obama White House official; Jerome Segal, an academic and socialist who previously founded the Bread and Roses Party, and Ralph Jaffe, a teacher who also ran in 2018.

Due to legal battles over redistricting, the filing deadline was extended twice, eventually moving from the original February 22 to April 15.

Democrats are eager to take back the governor’s mansion in the otherwise deeply blue state after eight years of Hogan. Democrats hold a more than 2-to-1 edge in voter registration over Republicans and normally dominate statewide races, but have been repeatedly frustrated at the top of the ticket in the past two decades as Hogan and former GOP Governor Robert Ehrlich Jr. have won three of the last five elections. Hogan can no longer run due to term limits.

Whoever emerges from this year’s Democratic primary will face the winner of a four-way Republican race led by Kelly Schulz, endorsed by Hogan, a former Frederick County delegate who spent seven years as cabinet secretary in the administration of Hogan.

She takes on Frederick County Del. Dan Cox, a hard-line Trump-endorsed conservative, as well as perennial candidate Robin Ficker and Baltimore County resident Joe Werner.

Most observers think Republicans could do well nationally in November, creating a tailwind that could help make Maryland’s general election competitive, despite the state’s Democratic leanings.

For the 10 Democrats, the question is not whether they are known among the highly engaged “political class” influenced by endorsements, but whether they connect with the hundreds of thousands of voters who will try to single them out. as they begin to fill. mail ballots or go to the polls, Kromer said. The first mail-in ballots are expected to be sent out in late May, with eight days of early voting starting July 7.

The governor’s race is still “mostly unsettled,” primarily due to the size of the field and the lack of independent polls so far, said Todd Eberly, associate professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Eberly said the limited polls so far, almost all less reliable internal candidate polls, give Franchot a slight edge, followed by Baker, King and Moore – but undecided voters still make up the biggest pool.

“There are a lot of people who are still undecided in this race,” Eberly said. “The question is, ‘Are people really starting to pay attention in the next three months?'”

The possibility of new public polls and campaign finance reports, due on June 14 and July 8, should offer a clearer picture of who voters and party insiders might band together in the final weeks of the election. campaign, Eberly said.

But if the field remains wide, he said, the Democratic candidate could win the primary with just 30% of the vote.

“Of course, the concern for Democrats is, ‘Does this potentially leave the party splintered and where they need to put it back together before the general election? “, asked Eberly.

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Television ads and strong field operations are going to make a difference in terms of candidate visibility, and no one is ahead of the rest in those categories yet, said Kromer, who directs Goucher’s Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics.

And while some candidates are already on TV, they haven’t reached the point of “saturating” the market enough to stand out to voters.

This usually requires spending large sums, always a great asset, but especially in such a vast field. With some TV spots already airing, keeping that ad going until July 19 could see top contenders spending more than $5 million on the primary alone, said John Dedie, a political science professor at Community College of Baltimore. County.

“Democrats will have to spend near bankruptcy,” Dedie said.

The resources they devote to a robust organizing effort can also make a difference in a year when redistricting challenges have pushed the June 28 primary into the summer vacation period. The 2018 primary, held on June 26, saw a 29% turnout among registered Democrats in the state.

“All of the campaigns are going to be focused on not just television, but what efforts are you making to go out on a 90 degree day in the middle of summer, and what efforts are being made to get mail-in ballots? fact? ” says Dedie.

Coming next week: a deeper look at Maryland’s Republican field.

Denise W. Whigham