Hours after the news hit that Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford (R) will not run for governor in 2022, state Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz announced her candidacy with an online video and a new website.
“We’ve come a long way over the course of the past few years, but there is still so much work we have left to do,” Schulz said in her announcement video. “I’m running for governor so we can continue to build upon all of our past successes and fulfill the great promise and potential of our state.”
Analysts expect the Frederick County resident and former state delegate to play up her role in the cabinet of Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), whose job approval numbers remain at historic highs.
Democrats immediately sought to tie Schulz to former President Trump, who is wildly unpopular among voters here.
In what appeared to be a coordinated move, Schulz waited until Wednesday to launch her candidacy in deference to Rutherford, who announced in a Maryland Matters interview that he will not seek the post that Hogan is vacating due to term limits.
Rutherford, who has served alongside Hogan since 2015, cited a lack of support from his wife and three grown children, who urged him to forego the rigors of a campaign.
The lieutenant governor would have entered the race as the early favorite for the GOP nomination, and his decision not to run makes it more likely that multiple candidates will get into the race. Anti-tax gadfly and frequent candidate Robin Ficker is already seeking the GOP nomination.
But in what appears to be part of a broader coordinated effort among leading Maryland Republicans, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, who considered a gubernatorial bid, is expected to announce on Thursday that he is running for comptroller, multiple sources said. He has scheduled a kickoff event at 11:30 a.m. at the Level Volunteer Fire Company in Havre de Grace.
Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, who served as lieutenant governor from 2003 to 2006, said on Wednesday that he is considering a run for governor but he has yet to reach a decision.
Several political professionals — especially Democrats — said they expect a Republican more closely affiliated with the Trump wing of the party to also run for governor, though no one has emerged yet.
Schulz, 52, is sure to highlight her biography as a single mother who got her college degree relatively late in life before starting a business career as she charts her campaign for governor. Schulz was a program manager for a defense contractor and a partner in a small cybersecurity firm. She also served in her local PTA when her children were in school.
“I’m running for governor so we can continue to build upon all of our past successes and fulfill the great promise and potential of our state,” she said Wednesday. “Together, we can get Marylanders working, help our struggling families and small businesses, and restore and strengthen our economy.”
Schulz got her political start serving on the Frederick County Republican Central Committee — and was county GOP chair from 2008 to 2010.
She ran what she assumed to be a longshot bid for a state House seat in 2010, but wound up beating four-term Del. Paul S. Stull by six votes in the GOP primary. Shortly after winning a second term in the House, Schulz was tapped to lead the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation when Hogan took office.
For Hogan’s second term, she moved to the Department of Commerce, which oversees business and job growth and workforce development. The agency is also involved in efforts to help companies impacted by COVID-19.
In launching her campaign, Schulz stressed her administration service and her private sector experience — though she never mentioned the governor by name. But several Republicans said they expect key members of Hogan’s political team to aid her candidacy either informally or in consulting roles, including Red Maverick Media.
Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said Rutherford’s decision not to run makes it more difficult for Republicans to win next year’s race.
“Regardless of who runs, the chances of the Republican Party holding onto the governorship for a third consecutive election in Maryland is already incredibly slim,” he said. “The chances are very small.”
Within hours of Schulz’s announcement, Democrats signaled they will try to tie her to Trump.
In a statement, a party spokesman called her “another obstructionist Republican standing in the way of progress for Marylanders.”
“Unfortunately for Schulz, who celebrated former President Trump’s win at an inaugural gala, any Republican running for governor won’t be able to get away from Trump’s deeply unpopular and failed record,” party spokesman Zachary Holman added.
Eberly said that while Rutherford might have been able to “scare some other folks from getting into the race” due to his proximity to Hogan, name recognition and access to resources, the same may not be true for Schulz, even with her ties to the popular governor.
But Paul Ellington, a former executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said that while she may not be as well known as Rutherford statewide, Schulz could be a very solid candidate in both the primary and the general election, and is someone who will connect with party activists thanks to her time on the Frederick GOP central committee.
Ellington said that with Schulz and Glassman on the ballot, Republicans will be fielding serious contenders with potential crossover appeal to independents and Democrats who will benefit GOP candidates in down-ballot elections.
“The state is well-served when you have competitive races,” Ellington said.
Strategists in both parties say Schulz’s potential could depend on the identity of the Democratic nominee. Republicans are sure to try to paint the Democratic candidate as a dangerous socialist and would contrast Schulz as a moderate suburban mom. Democratic opposition researchers will no doubt be scrambling to comb through her five-year voting record in the legislature.
Meanwhile, Steele, Maryland’s first African-American lieutenant governor, said the timing of Schulz’s candidacy has no bearing on his decision-making process.
“I’m going to take my time and do it right,” he said. “At the end of the day, what someone else does really doesn’t change too much what I do.”