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Election 2022 Government & Politics

Democratic governor candidates watch closely as mail ballot counting continues

Wes Moore claps along to the ’70s hit “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” as he arrives to vote at an early polling place in Baltimore. Photo by Josh Kurtz.

After a day of mail-in ballot counting Thursday, former nonprofit CEO Wes Moore remained in the lead in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, though two other candidates — former U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Comptroller Peter Franchot — closed the gap.

More than 56,072 mail ballots in the Democratic race for governor were reported to the Maryland State Board of Elections on Thursday from 19 counties. Results were not reported to the state from Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Charles County, Frederick County or Washington County by midnight.

Perez led in the mail ballot results reported Thursday, drawing support from 17,088 voters. Franchot added an additional 16,270 votes, and Moore added 12,934.

Moore remained in the lead with 151,724 votes, or 34.94%, followed by Perez at 120,784, or 27.82%.

About 10,000 ballots processed in Baltimore City on Thursday were not included in the updated statewide results.

More than 142,000 Democratic mail ballots received by local elections boards remain to be reported in the race, as of midnight. The mail-in ballot canvass will continue Friday morning in the city and multiple larger counties.

None of the top three candidates had declared victory or conceded Thursday night.

Earlier in the day Thursday, former Attorney General Doug Gansler, whose ticket was running in 6th place before mail-in ballot counting started, posted a concession to social media.

“While we fought valiantly over the past year for the opportunity to make Maryland and its signature city of Baltimore a safe and just place, to protect our planet from climate change, to be a brick wall in protecting abortion rights, and to spark economic turnaround, the voters went a different direction,” Gansler wrote.

Canvassers in Baltimore and Montgomery County will work on Saturday to continue processing mail ballots.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich — who is in a very tight Democratic primary contest with wealthy businessman David Blair — urged patience in a message released Thursday as votes continue to be counted. He said the count in Montgomery could take up to two weeks to complete.

After a first mail-in ballot canvass Thursday, Blair maintained a narrow lead in the race for county executive, with 550 votes over Elrich. In 2018, Elrich won the seat over Blair in a narrow 77-vote victory.

Looking ahead

Even with the delay in ballot-counting, there was evidence Thursday that the general election campaign for governor is slowly getting underway.

The Republican nominee, Del. Dan Cox, sent a fundraising solicitation to supporters with the subject line “Moore is LESS for Maryland.”

In the email, Cox referred to Moore as the likely Democratic nominee, and characterized him as “the socialist Left candidate.”

“The Democrats have continued to unleash their negative TV ad campaign against us, launching a new ad this week continuing the exact attack of the establishment RINOs,” Cox wrote. The next section of the solicitation is highlighted in yellow: “Disappointedly, our governor refuses to support us, meaning we the People will need to work extra hard to ensure he and his friends do not hand our state over to the hard Left.”

“But the good news is that the Democrat’s [sic] failing smear strategy falsely calling our values ‘far-right’ was proven to not work once, and we will prove so again with God’s help and your partnership with us,” Cox continued. He then went on to try to tie Moore to President Biden.

“His motto is ‘leave no one behind’ but his failed Biden agenda has already done that in Maryland,” Cox wrote. “Children and schools are forgotten while extreme divisive CRT and Gender Identity propaganda is on his website page with continued plans for indoctrination of our kids behind parents’ backs; our jobs and freedom are being robbed by mandates, high taxes and inflation; and, our streets are left behind with blood running in them from high crime while the Democratic progressives’ approach is to ‘defund the police.’

“It is clear: Moore is LESS for Maryland.”

Cox ended the solicitation: “Victory at all costs.”

While Cox was sharpening his attack lines in writing, Democrats were attacking Cox and other Republican nominees at a unity rally in Silver Spring — though none of the Democratic candidates for governor were there. Several Democrats emphasized that it was important to keep Democratic enthusiasm up through the general election and not assume that Cox is unelectable because of his extreme views.

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) exhorted the 150 Democratic politicians and activists on hand “to make sure we have a full big turnout” in the fall.

“Dan Cox’s supporters may be a lot of things, but they are motivated,” he said.

Van Hollen also said Democrats need to be enthusiastic about turning out for a variety of races on the ballot.

“The one thing that Republicans always rely on, when they’re not trying trying to pass laws to make voting more difficult, is our complacency,” he said.

Maryland Democratic Party Chair Yvette Lewis also made a call for party unity.

“Guess what, everybody,” she said. “We’ve got nominees. We may not know who they are. But we’ve got nominees. They’ve got nominees. And we will beat them.”

Lewis also suggested, with Cox continuing to embrace the theory that the 2020 presidential election was stolen in Biden’s favor, that Democrats need to stay united for the good of the state and nation.

“I want us to remember that we are one band, one song,” she said. “Because we have our nominees. One band, one song. Please, don’t let your disappointment [over the primary outcome] get in the way of our democracy.”

Some party leaders at the rally expressed frustration that primary results haven’t been finalized.

“This has been an incredibly long primary, and unfortunately, thanks to the governor’s veto, it will be an incredibly long vote count,” said Laura Stewart, president of the Montgomery County Women’s Democratic Club, sponsor of the quadrennial “kiss and make up” event in Silver Spring. “How many times a day are we going to refresh our screens? I’m going to do it a minimum of five times.”


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Democratic governor candidates watch closely as mail ballot counting continues