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Maryland’s far-right GOP primary winners shake up old guard Republicans

State Del. Dan Cox declares victory in the Maryland Republican primary for governor on July 19 in Emmitsburg, Md.
Rachel Baye
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WYPR
State Del. Dan Cox declares victory in the Maryland Republican primary for governor on July 19 in Emmitsburg, Md.

Delegate Dan Cox’s apparent victory in the GOP gubernatorial primary and Michael Anthony Peroutka’s win as the Republican nominee for attorney general, have rattled Maryland’s more traditional Republicans.

After all, Cox is a Donald Trump acolyte who claims the 2020 presidential election was stolen and organized a bus caravan to the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal rally.” Peroutka is a former member of the League of the South, a self-described “Southern Nationalist organization” that advocates for “preserving the traditional culture of the South” for “Southerners of European descent.”

The nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center labeled League of the South as a hate group.

The far-right candidates’ wins on the horizon prompted Kelly Schulz, Gov. Larry Hogan’s choice to succeed him, to vow to keep fighting.

“I have fought for everything in my life that I have ever had,” she told her supporters at her campaign rally Tuesday night. “And I am not going to stop fighting for this for each and every one of you.”

Her Republican party is the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and John McCain.

“That is exactly the party that I will continue to fight for,” she said.

Kelly Schulz
Kelly Schulz is a Republican candidate for governor of Maryland.

But it could be difficult to keep fighting when at last count more than 54% of the members of your party chose Cox to be their nominee for governor. And an even larger percentage chose Peroutka, who had ties to a white supremacist organization, for state Attorney General.

Brian Griffiths, who writes the conservative blog Duckpin, fired off an email to his subscribers after Cox’s projected victory saying he was quitting the party.

He says he almost did so after Donald Trump won the GOP nomination in 2016 but he stuck it out because he liked the way things were going in Maryland.

Cox, however, “was the straw that broke the camel's back,” he said. “It's not just Cox. It’s Peroutka, the central committees, kind of everybody up and down the ballot who is a wackadoodle who won.”

It will take years for the party to right itself and the first step would be to make sure Cox is defeated in the general election, he said.

“Walking away from conspiracies and Trump and Trumpism, and words like jab and, you know, opposition to mask mandates and calling people crazy things and calling people groomers and this and that and the other thing would be a good start,” he said.

Gov. Hogan said that Griffiths isn’t alone. Thousands of people throughout the country are quitting political parties and becoming independents. But not him, he said.

DEEP FRIED DEVILED EGG.jpg
Joel McCord
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Gov. Larry Hogan samples a deep fried deviled egg during the Buy Local Cookout at the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

“I'm a lifelong Republican,” Hogan insisted. “And, you know, just because they're attempting a hostile takeover I'm gonna continue to fight for the party of Reagan and Lincoln.”

But he won’t support Cox, who he calls “a Q-anon whack job.”

“I don't think he has any business being a nominee, and he has no chance to win the race whatsoever,” he said.

State Sen. Chris West, a Baltimore County Republican, was more philosophical.

“We always have contests between people who are more conservative on one hand and people who are less conservative on the other,” he said. “And sometimes the one side wins and sometimes the other side wins this time. The other side won this time. A side that I don't consider myself to be a member of.”

He called on the two sides in his party to listen “sympathetically to people who disagree with us” and try to bridge the chasm between them.

Winning a primary is one thing, he warned, but to win in November you have to talk to voters about issues they care about; crime, inflation and taxes. And most voters in Maryland aren’t interested in relitigating the 2020 presidential election.

“If that ends up being the main issue of our party's candidate for governor in the fall, I think he's going to find he has a difficult time winning,” West said. “I think he needs to address the issues which are most on the minds of the voters of Maryland.”

And if they don’t, he added, he’ll have a hard time supporting his party’s candidates.

Joel McCord is a trumpet player who learned early in life that that’s no way to make a living.
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