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Backed by Trump, Cox wins GOP race; Moore in front in Democratic battle

Maryland State Delegate Dan Cox gives a thumbs up Tuesday night as he enters a victory party in Emmitsburg after winning the Republican primary for Maryland governor. (Ric Dugan/The Frederick News-Post via AP)

ANNAPOLIS — Dan Cox, a far-right state legislator endorsed by former President Donald Trump, won the Republican primary for Maryland governor on Tuesday, defeating a moderate rival backed by outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan.

In the Democratic gubernatorial primary, bestselling author Wes Moore had the lead, but tens of thousands of mail-in votes remain to be counted in that race, beginning Thursday. Moore was in front of former U.S. Labor Secretary and Democratic Party Chair Tom Perez and state Comptroller Peter Franchot.

In Baltimore city, criminal defense attorney Ivan Bates had a solid lead over incumbent Marilyn Mosby and former prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah in the Democratic primary for state’s attorney, but the race was too close to call. Mosby, who is seeking her third term, is fighting federal charges of perjury and making a false statement on a loan application.

Despite being a win for Trump, Cox’s victory over former Hogan Cabinet member Kelly Schulz could be a blow to Republican chances to hold on to the seat in November. Hogan, who was prohibited from running for a third consecutive term, was a rare two-term Republican governor in a heavily Democratic state, and he had endorsed Schulz as the successor to his bipartisan style of leadership.

The Republican primary was viewed as a proxy battle between Trump and Hogan, who offered vastly different visions of the party’s future as they consider 2024 campaigns for the White House. Hogan, one of Trump’s most prominent GOP critics, urged the party to move on from his divisive brand of politics, while Trump spent much of his post-presidency lifting candidates who embrace his election lies.

RELATED: Maryland’s final primary voting results will take days to tally, officials say

Democrats, too, saw Cox as an easier opponent in a general election, with the Democratic National Committee plowing more than $1 million behind an ad intended to boost Cox in the Republican primary.

Cox, who organized busloads of protesters to Washington for the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, has also said President Joe Biden’s victory shouldn’t have been certified, called former Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor” and sought unsuccessfully to impeach Hogan for his pandemic policies.

Cox alluded to his fight with Hogan in his victory speech Tuesday night, telling a cheering crowd: “We will never again give over our bodies, our churches and our businesses to a lockdown state.”

Trump was gleeful over Cox’s victory, taking aim at Hogan in a statement shortly before the race was called: “RINO Larry Hogan’s Endorsement doesn’t seem to be working out so well for his heavily favored candidate. Next, I’d love to see Larry run for President!”

In another top race Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen beat back a primary challenge just months after suffering a minor stroke. He is favored in November to win a second term.

Del. Brooke Lierman was declared the winner by AP in the Democratic primary for comptroller, outdistancing Bowie Mayor Tim Adams. She will face GOP nominee Barry Glassman, the current Harford County executive, in the November election.

In the Democratic race for the attorney general’s nomination, U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown had a substantial lead over Katie Curran O’Malley, the daughter of a former attorney general and the wife of former Gov. Martin O’Malley. Brown had served as O’Malley’s lieutenant governor.

The two are vying to replace Democratic Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, who is retiring. Maryland hasn’t had a Republican attorney general in nearly 70 years.

Maryland’s only open congressional seat is in the 4th Congressional District, a heavily Democratic Black-majority district, where Brown is vacating the seat. Former Rep. Donna Edwards, who previously held the seat, trailed former county prosecutor Glenn Ivey in early results in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

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.

Wes Moore has claimed a lead in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, but thousands of mail-in votes are outstanding. (AP Photo/Brian Witte, File)

Ten candidates in all were seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. Perez had support from labor unions, while Moore, the former CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty organization, was endorsed by the state’s teachers union and the two top Maryland legislative leaders, House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson.

Another top candidate, Franchot, who comfortably won four races to be the state’s tax collector, brought significant name recognition to the primary.

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 said they 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.”

Cox’s victory on Tuesday serves as a win for Trump, who has a mixed endorsement record in this year’s midterm elections. But in such a heavily Democratic state, his candidate faces an uphill battle heading into the fall.

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.”

Brian Witte reports for The Associated Press.