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Election 2022 Government & Politics

Former rivals offer Wes Moore their full support at Democratic unity rally

Leading Maryland Democrats, including gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore, comptroller candidate Brooke Lierman, lieutenant governor nominee Aruna Miller and U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen gathered for a photo following a unity rally on Monday. Photo by Bruce DePuyt.

They are running against Republicans who have been described as unelectable extremists. But Maryland Democrats came together on Monday to declare that they will campaign hard between now and November — and that they will not take any race for granted.

“We know sane versus crazy is on the ballot,” said Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (D). “The only way (to win) is that we get out and vote in numbers. We can’t assume anything.”

“Don’t take any election for granted,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D). “We need Team Maryland to fight for the values that are important to our state.”

At a two-and-a-half-hour unity rally in downtown Silver Spring, top Democratic officials from around the state pledged to get behind gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore and his running mate Aruna Miller, attorney general candidate Anthony Brown and comptroller candidate Brooke Lierman.

They also pledged to work to elect Democrats to the U.S. House and to return Democratic majorities to the state legislature, where the party has long held sway.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore speaks at a party unity rally on Monday. Photo by Bruce DePuyt.

The rally at Veterans Plaza drew a large crowd that included several candidates for governor who lost to Moore — most notably, Comptroller Peter Franchot and former U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez — county executives who face competitive general election battles, members of Congress, legislative leaders, members of the General Assembly, top lobbyists, and rank-and-file activists.

Much of the rhetorical focus was aimed at Del. Dan Cox, the Republican nominee for governor. A Trump-endorsed conservative, Cox has raised baseless claims about the 2020 elections and he holds views on social issues that are largely out of step with the state’s electorate.

U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D) noted that the state’s popular Republican governor, Larry Hogan, has trashed Cox repeatedly, calling his party’s nominee “a QAnon whack job” with no chance of winning.

“The governor of this state, who has somewhere in the neighborhood of 65%-70% popularity, said, ‘He is a wacko,’” said Hoyer. “If (the late Rep.) Elijah Cummings were here today, he would say, ‘We are better than that.’ We are better than electing a wacko governor of our state.”

At least four of Moore’s former primary rivals attended the rally, and the two who finished directly behind him — Perez and Franchot — offered him their full support in November.

“Trumpism is on the ballot right here in Maryland. We know that,” said Perez, noting that Cox has pledged to bring Trump-inspired policies to Annapolis if elected. “That’s why we need Wes and Aruna in a big way.”

“To everybody who may have voted for someone else, who may have voted for us, here’s what I’m here to say: Get over it!,” Perez said, slapping a Moore sticker to his chest for emphasis. “It’s time to come together. It’s time to win! It’s time to take our future.”

“We need to put aside our differences,” said Franchot. “We need to unite behind this historic, transformative team.”

Sen. Ben Cardin and congressional candidate Heather Mizeur share a laugh at a Democratic unity rally in Silver Spring. Photo by Bruce DePuyt.

Moore pledged to “fully fund and properly implement” the educational reform initiative known as the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. He said he would fight to expand “free Pre-K,” to peg the state’s minimum wage to inflation, to spur alternative sources of energy and to make Maryland more attractive to job-creators.

“This is a Republican nominee who has pledged his allegiance to Donald Trump,” Moore said of Cox. “I pledge my allegiance to God. I pledge my allegiance to that flag over there. I pledge my allegiance to my family, and I pledge my allegiance to the people of the state of Maryland.”

Earlier in the program, the crowd booed when speakers referenced Rep. Andy Harris, a hard-right conservative who voted not to certify the results of the 2020 election hours after protestors ransacked the U.S. Capitol. He attended a White House meeting in which Trump and senior officials discussed a plan to encourage members of the public to fight the election outcome on January 6.

“We know that Andy Harris was one of ten in the room,” said former Del. Heather Mizeur, who is challenging Harris. “I’m running to defeat a traitor to our nation!”

Comptroller candidate Del. Brooke Lierman spoke, as did Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski and Anne Arundel County Steuart Pittman. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich attended the event but was not permitted to speak. In an interview, party chair Yvette Lewis said the decision not to allow the host county executive to speak was made “out of an abundance of caution,” because Elrich and rival David Blair are separated by a small number of votes, with the canvass expected to last several more days. Blair also attended the rally.

Although much of the rhetorical venom was aimed at Cox, Democrats are also pledging to rally behind Rep. Anthony Brown, the party’s nominee for attorney general.

On Monday, CNN reported that Michael Peroutka, the Republican candidate, made outlandish claims about the Sept. 11 attacks in a 2006 radio series — spreading bizarre theories about “elite bureaucrats” installing explosive devices throughout New York City in 2001. In media interviews, Hogan denounced Peroutka’s claims as “disgusting lies.”

Cox did not return a voice message or a text message on Monday. Reached on his cell phone, Peroutka said he is on vacation with family. Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, the GOP candidate for comptroller, is also traveling and declined to comment through an aide. Rep. Andy Harris did not respond to an emailed request for an interview.

In a statement prior to the Democrats’ rally, Maryland Republican Party Chair Dirk Haire appealed for unity in his own party in the wake of the July primaries.

“Now that we have nominees, we look forward to a spirited and unified front as our candidates fight for freedom and limited, efficient government in Maryland,” he said.

“The Party looks forward to supporting all of our nominees up and down the ballot, just as the Party supported all of our nominees in all previous cycles. This is no time for division — the stakes are too high, and we urge all of our nominees, unsuccessful primary candidates, and their supporters to unify and support all of our Republican candidates on to victory in November.”