Del. Dan Cox, an outspoken supporter of former president Donald Trump, launched his bid for governor on July 4 promising “a renewed vision of constitutional leadership.”
The Frederick County Republican, who is serving his first term in the House of Delegates, announced his candidacy in a text message to supporters that coincided with Independence Day fireworks displays.
Cox’s candidacy is certain to set up a clash between the two dominant wings of the state GOP, pitting supporters of the former president against those aligned with Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., the state’s popular second-term governor and a longtime Trump critic.
A four-minute video on Cox’s retooled website accompanied his announcement.
In it, he laid out a five-point platform that includes an end to “overreaching and invasive government controls” and school curriculum that contains no “political or ideological indoctrination.”
He also called for a “forensic audit of the 2020 election.”
Cox declined interview requests from several news organizations, including Maryland Matters.
He is the third Republican to launch a bid for the seat that Hogan will vacate in 18 months due to term limits.
State commerce secretary Kelly M. Schulz entered the race in April after Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford (R) announced his decision not to run. Anti-tax advocate Robin Ficker, a perennial candidate, threw his hat into the ring last year.
Former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, an MSNBC commentator and former Republican National Committee chairman who endorsed Joe Biden last October, is considering a gubernatorial bid as well. He said on Monday he has yet to reach a decision about the 2022 election.
Cox launched a fundraising committee last week, a move that hinted at a potential candidacy. At the time, a leading analyst, political science professor Todd Eberly, called a Cox-Schulz campaign “a nightmare for Maryland Republicans.”
“He clearly takes a more populist approach to a lot of issues that appeal to a very hard-core base within the party,” said Mark Uncapher, secretary of the Maryland Republican Party.
“The Hogan world is all-in for Kelly,” he added. “They’re unified around her.”
In a press release, Maryland Democratic Party Chair Yvette Lewis said, “With Cox in the race, Schulz will have no choice but to answer key questions about her support for the former president.”
James Pelura, who ran the Maryland Republican Party from 2006 to 2009, downplayed the suggestion that the lawmaker’s affiliation with Trump would hurt him in the general election. He pointed to Cox’s belief in the limits of government.
“Government isn’t the answer to everything,” Pelura said. “At some point, people have to take responsibility for their actions.”
Cox has been a lightning rod for controversy since entering public service.
He sued unsuccessfully to reverse the executive order Hogan signed early in the pandemic.
He invoked the Nuremberg trials during debate on legislation intended to expand mental health services to underage youth.
And after helping to arrange bus transportation to Washington, D.C. for Trump supporters on January 6, Cox took to social media to call Vice President Mike Pence “a traitor” at the height of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Cox’s campaign website touches on many of the same themes that the former president and his supporters have stressed.
His platform embraces school choice, an end to “the divisive [critical race theory] and [to] make our schools free from political or ideological indoctrination.”
He seeks reduced taxes, a “valid citizen voter I.D.” requirement for voters, and “a forensic audit of the 2020 election.” He also advocates for the “necessary budget” for law enforcement personnel and the removal of “criminal illegal aliens from our communities.”
Schulz’s campaign has been relatively quiet since her April launch. Her website has not been updated and she has generated few headlines, though supporters did march in holiday parades over the weekend.
Schulz tweeted on Saturday that she had “a fantastic time” at the Dundalk Independence Day Parade.