By Shannon Clark and Abby Zimmardi
ANNAPOLIS – Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore and his opponent, Republican Dan Cox, shook hands and spoke with visitors from across the state Wednesday in between “all-you-can-eat” crabs, watermelon and corn at the J. Millard Tawes Crab & Clam Bake.
For the past 44 years, the event has served as an opportunity for the local chamber of commerce to highlight Somerset County’s economy, while also doubling as a platform for politicians statewide.
A traditionally Republican county, Somerset voted for the former President Donald Trump during 2020’s presidential election, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.
Approximately 5,000 people attended this year’s event, where booths, signs and hats advertising 2022 political candidates could be spotted throughout the event.
Along with the gubernatorial candidates, other Maryland politicians and public officials attending the event included Gov. Larry Hogan, R, who appears to be gearing up for the 2024 presidential race, Comptroller Peter Franchot, D, who lost in the primary to Moore, U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown, the Democratic attorney general candidate, and Moore’s running mate for lieutenant governor, Aruna Miller. (Story continues below photo.)
Prior to arriving at the festival, Moore spoke to students, faculty and deans at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, a historically black university 26 miles north of Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield where the event was held.
Meanwhile, Cox spoke Wednesday morning with Kim Klacik, a radio talk show host on WBAL. He discussed his previous night’s appearance at a forum at Morgan State University, a historically black university in Baltimore.
The event, hosted by the college’s student-run news organization, was originally to include appearances by both gubernatorial candidates, but Moore declined the event in August.
Cox and Moore are scheduled to debate Oct. 12 at an event hosted by Maryland Public Television and WBAL-TV.
Cox also discussed the upcoming fundraiser hosted by Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort, which he described as an “intimate event.” Trump has endorsed Cox’s candidacy, which helped him defeat former Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, who was endorsed by Hogan.
The event is an effort to raise money for Cox’s gubernatorial campaign. Moore currently has a 10-1 fundraising lead over Cox, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections campaign finance report.
Tickets to the private cocktail portion of the event are $1,776 per person, and invitees can also get a photo taken with both Trump and Cox for $25,000, according to the invitation to the event.
“This is not a meet and greet,” Cox said. “This is a fundraiser. It is designed to help us get the cash that we need to push through the finish line and win.”
Cox also spoke about his second attempt Tuesday to halt the Maryland State Board of Elections from counting mail-in ballots earlier.
Cox lost a previous effort to stop early counting of the ballots last week when the Montgomery County Circuit Court approved a board of elections emergency petition to allow counting of early mail-in votes, which are scheduled to begin Oct. 1.
Election officials said in their petition for the change, they needed the new counting rules “to ensure that all critical election-related deadlines established by law are met.”
In the July primaries, more than 345,000 mail-in ballots were cast. As of last week, more than 525,000 Maryland voters asked for a mail-in ballot, an election board member said.