Former state attorney general and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler said Monday that if he loses the primary election next June Marylanders will likely windup electing another Republican to succeed popular two-term incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan.
State Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz is considered the establishment favorite for the GOP nomination. She has three primary opponents but none are considered to be serious challengers.
And Schulz can take comfort in the findings of a recent Goucher College poll which showed that 49% of the state’s voters said they would prefer that Maryland’s next governor be a Republican in the mold of Hogan, compared with 44% who said they would prefer a moderate Democrat. Moreover, when a progressive Democrat is considered, support for a Hogan-like Republican jump to 55%.
“What people have said to me is there is this sort of thought that if I don’t win the primary, we are going to have a Republican governor for another four years or eight years. And there may be something to that,” Gansler told MarylandReporter.com.
Gansler’s remarks were in response to a question about whether Comptroller Peter Franchot and former DNC chair Tom Perez should be considered the leading contenders in the nine candidate field.
But Gansler is not without his share of influential political endorsements, which as of late include Del. Jon Cardin, D-Baltimore County, and Sen. Ron Young, D-Frederick.
A spokesperson for Franchot declined to respond to Gansler’s remarks.
Perez’s campaign manager, Jessica Semachko, said in a statement that her candidate is best equipped to win the general election.
“Tom’s depth of experience fighting for people at the local, state, and national levels makes him the best candidate to flip Maryland from red to blue next year. He’s also committed to making sure that a Democrat is elected as Maryland’s next governor, and he calls on all candidates to join him in supporting whoever Democratic voters nominate in the primary.”
Gansler emphasized that he has proven progressive bonafides, such as having been an early supporter of same-sex marriage and having embraced police reform before it was fashionable. However, Gansler noted that the nomination does not always go to the candidate who is most ideologically pure.
“If you look at what happened on the presidential level last year, there was a lot of pure ideology. Elizabeth Warren. Bernie Sanders. Pete Buttigieg. But at the end of the day Democrats got together to vote for Joe Biden as the candidate who could actually win the general election.”
Is the GOP a serious threat?
Gansler said Democrats should be careful not to underestimate Schulz.
“There is no denying Governor Hogan’s popularity. He has an over 70% favorable rating among Democratic primary voters. You couple that with Kelly Schulz posturing herself as a third term of the Hogan administration. You juxtapose that with what purports to be the most Republican year in our lifetime coming up next year. And she (Schulz) is going to be therefore very formidable.”
If so, is Gansler the best Democrat to deter that threat?
“Doug Gansler’s warning that only he can likely win a Maryland gubernatorial race is revelatory of the rhetorical weaknesses that characterized his run for the office in 2013-2014. At that time, he unwisely criticized Anthony Brown for racially infusing his campaign which led to unfair but predictable Democratic charges of racism against Gansler,” Richard Vatz, a professor of political persuasion at Towson University, said.
Moreover, Vatz said Gansler’s rhetoric is a bit over the top.
“Gansler is a knowledgeable candidate, a policy wonk, but his rhetorical misjudgments appear to still be with him after years out of the public limelight. To gratuitously insult credible Democratic gubernatorial candidates like Comptroller Franchot is evidence of campaign-destructive hubris which likely will generate unnecessary opposition from his own party.”
Sen. Cory McCray, D-Baltimore City, said Perez’s combination of “local, state, and federal experience” makes him uniquely suited to carry the party’s mantle into the general election.
“You don’t need training wheels going into the governor’s office,” he added.