Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan endorses Kelly Schulz for governor

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) yesterday announced he is endorsing Kelly Schulz for governor in the Republican primary currently scheduled for July 19, 2022. Schulz served in the Hogan administration for seven years, as the first female secretary of both the Department of Labor and Department of Commerce. She has also served as a state delegate to the Maryland General Assembly from Frederick County, and as a small business owner. If elected, Schulz would be the first female governor of the state.

Schulz faces fellow Republicans Delegate Dan Cox, who has been endorsed by President Donald Trump; attorney and former state delegate Robin Ficker; and attorney Joe Werner in the gubernatorial primary. The Hogan endorsement's impact on the race is debatable. 

For Schulz, the support from Hogan bolsters her argument that she is the only candidate who can hold the Hogan coalition together that led him to victory twice in a blue state. Hogan said as much in his statement of endorsement Tuesday:  “If you approve of how we have led Maryland, then Kelly Schulz is your choice for governor.” 

The governor scored a major win this week in bringing a Hitachi railcar factory to economically-hard-hit Hagerstown, with 460 high-wage jobs, the first such high-profile victory in nearly two decades for the state. Hitachi's announcement puts a tangible punctuation mark on Hogan's claim to have improved Maryland's miserable business climate. Schulz noted following the announcement that she played a leading role as Secretary of Commerce in recruiting Hitachi and a new United Safety Technology manufacturing facility to the state, allowing her to now tout these wins on the stump, a powerful talking point with broad appeal to moderate Democrats and independents.

But while Hogan is more popular in majority-Democrat Maryland overall than Trump, Trump may loom larger in a GOP primary. A Gonzales poll in January showed that more Democrats approved of Hogan than Republicans statewide. Hogan clashed eagerly and regularly with Trump over the last several years, angering many Republicans in the state.

While Schulz has led in fundraising, her campaign has unleashed increasingly-negative attacks on Cox in recent weeks, via online ads and surrogates. Either Cox remains a significant concern, or Schulz is not taking any chances. 

Ficker and Werner have stayed out of the fray. Ficker has focused on his proposal to reduce the state sales tax by two cents, and Werner has balanced conservative positions on social issues with a pro-business-growth message. Cox has fought Hogan's pandemic restrictions and mandates, such as business closures, going as far as suing the governor at one point. He and his supporters are likely shedding no tears over an endorsement snub by Hogan.

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