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Democrats’ ad campaign stirs up a ruckus in Md. GOP primary fight

The ads touting the Trump-backed Cox irks campaign of Hogan-backed Schulz

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kelly Schulz at an Annapolis news conference Thursday, with some supporters of her opponent, Dan Cox, waving signs in the background. (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan’s hand-picked candidate for governor said a national Democratic organization is meddling in Maryland’s Republican primary in support of her opponent.

The Democratic Governors Association purchased more than $1 million in television ads in support of Dan Cox, said Kelly Schulz, the two-term GOP governor’s former Cabinet secretary. It’s a sign, she said, that Democrats sense their best shot at winning back the governor’s mansion in Maryland is to face an ultra-conservative Republican backed by former President Donald Trump.

Schulz said Democrats are trying to ensure Cox’s election to ensure a Democratic governor in November.

“The math is easy: Spend $1 million now and save $5 million by not having to face me in the general election,” said Schulz.

“Any ad that you see paid for by the Democrat Governors Association is an ad meant to trick you because they think you can be manipulated and fooled,” she said.

The DGA ads, called “Meet Dan” will start running next week as early voting kicks off in Maryland.

“Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in this state but they still feel the need to cheat because they’re out of ideas and clearly don’t think they can win a fair fight,” said Hogan.

A review of the ad, which was posted on social media and circulated by Schulz’s campaign, would qualify as a negative ad if Cox were to run in the general election. The ad simultaneously stirs up emotional issues for Democrats, including abortion and guns, while hitting buzzwords that would play well with Republicans who support Trump.

A spokesman for the DGA confirmed the ad but would not confirm the amount being spent.

“For months, multiple polls have shown Dan Cox is firmly in the driver’s seat of Maryland’s Republican primary, with the total backing of Donald Trump and the state’s only Republican member of Congress, Andy Harris. Given Cox’s frontrunner status and radical MAGA stances, we are starting the general election early and wasting no time to hold him accountable,” said DGA Deputy Communications Director Sam Newton. “It’s telling that Kelly Schulz is already looking for excuses for her failure to gain any momentum, while refusing to answer questions and even show up to debates.”

“This whole thing about the DGA is a farce,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox told reporters afterward. (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

It is likely, however, that the ads will continue to sow divisiveness within the Republican Party in Maryland in advance of the July 19 primary.

Schulz has outpaced Cox in fundraising. As of the most recent report, Schulz has raised nearly $2.3 million total and had over $717,000 in cash on hand.

Cox so far has raised more than $521,000, less than one-quarter Schulz’s total. As of the most recent report filed June 14, he had roughly $150,000 cash on hand.

Despite being outspent 4-1 by Schulz, Cox holds a nominal lead in a recent poll, although his edge is within the poll’s margin of error.

A recent poll conducted by Goucher College found Cox with a 25%-22% lead over Schulz. The lead is well within the margin of error nearly 5%. A large plurality of Republicans said they remained undecided.

The DGA has touted a number of polls since February that they say show support for Cox balloons when Republican voters are told he was endorsed by Trump.

The former president called into a Cox campaign event over the weekend to offer his backing, using the occasion to take some swipes at Hogan, who has been among Trump’s most vociferous Republican critics.

A recent poll found that roughly one-third of Democrats said they would consider voting for Schulz — a number that would make her competitive in November. Of those same Democrats, 84% said they would not consider voting for Cox when told he had been endorsed by Trump.

Republicans had worried outside forces would take a hand in the governor’s race. The DGA ad purchase appears to dwarf what Cox has been able to spend on his own for media.

Hogan said it’s a sign of frustration among Democrats.

“The Democrats are so scared of losing again that they are now enabling, emboldening and embracing a QAnon conspiracy theorist. Someone who bused people to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and called Vice President (Mike) Pence a traitor as the Capitol was under attack,” said Hogan.

Cox and a group of supporters were relegated to the edges of the Schulz rally holding signs and shouting responses at Schulz and Hogan

“This whole thing about the DGA is a farce,” Cox told reporters afterward. “It’s a lie. I’m calling for an investigation of how (Schulz) knew what the DGA was doing.”