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Election 2022 Government & Politics

Winners and Losers From the Primary Delay

A ballot dropbox at the University of Maryland at Baltimore Community Engagement Center on West Baltimore Street. File photo by Hannah Gaskill.

Three weeks.

It doesn’t sound like a whole lot of time. But under certain circumstances, a three-week delay can be agony.

Three weeks: That’s how long the Maryland Court of Appeals has told us to wait for the Maryland primary elections. They were supposed to be held on June 28, and on Tuesday the court decreed that they will take place on July 19 instead. God forbid anyone should have summer vacation plans.

Along with changing the primary date, the court set a new filing deadline for candidates, which had already been pushed back once, to April 15 instead of next Tuesday. So that’s two deadlines we now have to worry about on the 15th.

Will the three-week delay matter in the end? Could it change the political landscape — the candidates who get into races and which ones ultimately win? Hell yeah! Some elections are decided on the margins, so any change in the dynamic makes a difference.

With its announcement Tuesday, the court has all but told us that it’s planning to change district lines. So let the panic set in and let’s consider some of the winners and losers from the court’s decision to delay the primary. And here’s a thought: What if the primary gets delayed again?

Losers: Frontrunners in certain high-profile races

If you’re ahead and being chased, you always want the election to come sooner rather than later. It gives your opponents less time to catch up, and it enables you to execute the “four corners” strategy you had diagrammed (apologies for the old-school college basketball talk — it must be the season).

So state Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot, the frontrunner in the Democratic primary for governor, who seems to be conducting a “Rose Garden” strategy, at least when it comes to engaging his opponents, cannot be happy. He’d like the primary to be today, for good reason. Not only do his opponents have three extra weeks to try to overcome him, but Franchot is now going to have to slog through innumerable 4th of July parades when he might have imagined spending the holiday on vacation.

Of Franchot’s Democratic opponents, our gut sense is that the delay helps most of them to one degree or another — but it’s hard to know who it’s going to help the most. Wes Moore, the former CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, is going to have robust exposure on TV and radio no matter what and now he’ll just have to stretch his media budget a little more. For former U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez and former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, the extra time means an opportunity to stay in the public consciousness a little bit longer. For everyone, the delay keeps hope alive, and means that at least there’s more flesh to press. They’ll have 4th of July visibility as well.

Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore City), the overwhelming choice of political insiders in the Democratic primary for comptroller, also can’t be happy. Now her team has more time to fret about whether and how her primary opponent, Bowie Mayor Timothy J. Adams, is going to deploy his millions. Adams’ campaign seems to be coming out of hibernation this week.

Montgomery County Executive Marc B. Elrich (D) is in a tough four-way primary and his challengers include free-spending businessman David Blair. Blair’s riches could not get him over the top in the 2018 county executive primary and there’s no telling it will this time. But he’ll have three extra weeks to saturate the airwaves.

Winners: Procrastinators

Thinking about a late entry into a race but worried that the filing deadline was coming up too soon? You now have another month to deliberate. Same with candidates who are already running for one office but weighing the pros and cons of getting into a different race.

Winner: Joseph M. Getty

The chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals becomes, for another month at least, the Most Interesting Man in the World … well, at least Maryland.

Losers: Democrats

If we assume correctly that the Court of Appeals is going to redraw the legislative and congressional maps, the changes won’t be good for Democrats — and especially for certain incumbents in the General Assembly.

Push: Republicans

Getty and his colleagues may be about to deliver sweet vindication for Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) and his years-long crusade to lash Democrats for their extreme gerrymandering. Must be nice to have your former legislative director and an ex-GOP lawmaker atop the state’s highest court. Small wonder Hogan was all but skipping down the halls of the State House on Tuesday evening.

But lots of legislative Republicans weren’t happy with Hogan’s legislative map, and if that’s what’s enacted by the Court of Appeals, you will hear plenty of grousing from GOP incumbents — even if Republicans are relishing the Democrats’ discomfort.

Loser: Kelly M. Schulz

We honestly don’t know how to read the Republican gubernatorial primary between Schulz, the former state Commerce secretary backed by Hogan and his political brain trust, and Del. Daniel L. Cox, who was endorsed by former President Trump. But if you accept, as we do, that Schulz would be stronger in the general election against the Democrats, another few weeks of trying to ignore Cox and not being able to fully focus on the general cannot be helpful.

The Democratic nominee will almost certainly get a bounce out of his or her primary win, whereas a Schulz victory might earn a shrug and a “wasn’t she supposed to win anyway?” reaction. Of course, we expect fresh attacks on the Democratic nominee as soon as the primary is over — if not directly from the Republican nominee, then from well-funded independent national or state-based GOP groups.

Winner: Steuart Pittman

The Democratic Anne Arundel County executive continues to be one of the luckiest guys in Maryland politics. In a purple county, the national political atmosphere may be bad enough for Democrats to sink him anyway. But he certainly benefits by having the Republicans who are trying to run against him spending three more weeks, and the corresponding resources, trying to beat each other. His strongest possible general election foe, County Councilmember Jessica Haire, has had a very targeted TV ad campaign going for the past several months. Can she sustain that through mid-July and still have all she needs for the general?

Losers: Candidates who have already spent a lot of money on literature

Especially if the lit features the old primary date on it.

Winners: Political printers

Winners: Political consultants

Three more weeks on the gravy train.

Losers: Political donors

Now you’re going to have three more weeks of apocalyptic emails and desperate pleas for money.

Losers: The voters

We still miss the September primary. Why can’t we have it back?

Voter turnout, which is never great in midterm elections, tends to go down in summer months. June 28 was bad enough. July 19 — with early voting likely to begin earlier — will be terrible. Voters will be focused on their vacations and by then there could be mass confusion over when the primary will actually take place.

“Democracy is messy,” Bobby Kennedy once said. But this is beyond the pale.


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Winners and Losers From the Primary Delay