Several of Maryland’s Republican lawmakers said that they would back state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz’s campaign for governor in a prospective primary contest between Schulz and former Lt. Gov. and former Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Michael Steele.
Schulz announced her candidacy last month and is thus far the only Republican in the race. Steele told MarylandReporter.com that he is strongly considering running for governor and will make a decision on his own timeline.
The Democratic candidates for governor thus far include Comptroller Peter Franchot, former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and several lesser-known candidates.
Popular incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan is term-limited and cannot run again. Hogan is Maryland’s first two-term Republican governor since the 1950s. Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-1 margin in the state.
“Unequivocally Kelly Schulz,” Del. Brian Chisholm (R-Anne Arundel) told MarylandReporter.com on Tuesday.
Chisholm added: “Michael Steele is unfortunately almost in that same light that most people see Governor Hogan in now. They are out for themselves and not to build the Republican-conservative brand. He (Steele) has got a history now of just bashing any real conservative philosophy or thought or any conservative candidate. I do not want a middle-of-the-road candidate that is going to come in and wash out what Republicans traditionally stand for.”
Del. Haven Shoemaker (R-Carroll) echoed similar sentiments.
“If those two candidates were my choices I would definitely vote for Kelly.”
Shoemaker said that Steele has lost a lot of credibility among Republicans.
“Kelly has proven Republican bona fides. I am concerned about the trajectory of Michael Steele’s rhetoric over the last few years-the vitriols directed at (former) President Donald Trump and those of us who support him. And that gives me considerable pause.”
Shoemaker said that he previously was a “pretty big fan” of Steele but that that changed as Steele became more critical of the Republican party.
“Some of the things that he (Steele) has said on the Bill Maher show and on MSNBC make me certainly question why any Republican would support him at this juncture. It is very disappointing.”
Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-Baltimore County) also said that he would back Schulz over Steele.
“The biggest reason is that he (Steele) has gone to the left a lot and he has turned off a lot of Republicans with some of his stands. I have nothing against Michael. He is a friend. But I just think that right now Kelly Schulz would be more favorable.”
Richard Vatz, a professor of political persuasion at Towson University, said the Maryland GOP was “dealt a major blow” by Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford’s decision not to enter the race.
“His announcement was responsible, giving other aspirants a lengthy time to prepare for their candidacies, but he would have made a tremendously attractive candidate, coming out of an impressive administration and having the requisite qualities of intellect, judgment, and honesty.”
Vatz said it is likely that Schulz would lose in a primary contest against Steele.
“Kelly Schulz is a competent administrator without much experience and, early in the game, virtually no name recognition and no signature issues. Michael Steele has lost a tremendous amount of intensity of Republican and conservative support, but his name is known to everyone. His MSNBC anti-Trump rants and apparently new liberal-conservative ambivalence and, perhaps most politically significant, his unambiguous anti-Trumpism are the sources of that reduction of intensity. Regardless, were I to bet as to who might likely get the nomination, it would appear to be Steele’s to lose at this point.”
Also, Vatz said that any Republican would have a difficult time defeating Franchot, who is considered to be both a moderate and the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.
“Heading into the general election, Franchot’s often middle of the road and long-standing popularity make him the early bet to win his nomination and election going away.”