Welcome to the June installment of The Duckpin Maryland Gubernatorial Power Rankings. These rankings will list, in my estimation, the contenders for the office of Governor of Maryland on a 1-10 scale. This list will be updated every month; maybe more once we get to 2022 itself.
I have a feeling the names on this list are going to stabilize as people finally decide if they are in or they are out.
The rankings are a combination of polls, data, political environment, and gut feelings. It is not necessarily a ranking in order of who I think should be elected Governor, but who is best positioned to win the November 2022 General Election at that time. Think of it as a snapshot in time.
#10: Mike Rosenbaum (D) (Previous: NR)
A newcomer to the list, Rosenbaum is a tech entrepreneur who will fit the role of the technocrat in this race, a role that has been filled in the past by candidates like Alec Ross. Rosenbaum is saddled with the fact that he is a political unknown in a sea of political unknowns and has made little splash in the weeks since he announced his candidacy.
#9: Former U.S. Secretary of Education John King (D) (Previous: NR)
John King is back on the list. He’s still a relative newcomer to Maryland Politics. This makes him completely unknown in a Maryland Democratic Party that is simultaneously moving further and further to the left but also has a tremendous distrust of outside candidates, particularly after the 2018 election. But he also has no baggage with him from years and decades of Maryland Democratic Party inside baseball. King has a high ceiling in his race, with many of his Obama connections likely to find their way back to Washington in new roles with the Biden Administration.
#8: Congressman Anthony Brown (D) (Previous: 9)
Anthony Brown looked like he was gearing up to make another run. Brown was the perceived front-runner for the entire election even though many of the leading indicators were trending Republican over a year before the election. It also led to one of the greatest self-owns of all time on Twitter. Brown was just elected to his third term in Congress and with his paths for advancement limited, he might take one more bite at the apple. Much like Ben Jealous, it’s hard to imagine Democrats nominating a failed candidate; they’ve never done so in the past. Brown has the advantage over Jealous by being an incumbent Congressman and better candidate (at least compared to Jealous). But if Brown doesn’t get moving, he’s gonna fall himself lagging behind the top of the field.
#7: Former DNC Chairman Tom Perez (D) (Previous: 8)
Tom Perez is back on the list, coming off a four-year term as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. That’s worked in launching politicians to governorships previously (see Ed Rendell in Pennsylvania and Terry McAuliffe in Virginia). Perez’s problem at this point is that he’s been out of Maryland local politics for over ten years at this point, and the landscape of the Maryland Democratic Party has radically changed since then. While he did serve as one term as a Montgomery County Councilman as Maryland Secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, he has been focused on federal and national politics since 2009. But Perez told Maryland Matters that he has the network to compete. Prior to serving as Chairman of the DNC, Perez was the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division and the Secretary of Labor under Barack Obama. Perez’s last attempt at statewide office, in 2006, crashed and burned after he was disqualified from running for Maryland Attorney General.
#6: Jon Baron (D) (Previous: 7)
The policy expert and former non-profit executive is trying to be the little engine that could. He may officially be in the exploratory phase of his campaign, but there is little doubt that he is running.
Baron may be running, but he is going to face problems heading into any serious campaign. The Democratic primary voter has shown that they are looking for a firebrand with unserious and bombastic policy solutions. Not a policy wonk and technocrat. Nor will friends making comments like “I immediately presumed that he would be running as a Republican” help at all with the left-wing primary base.
#5: Former Attorney General Doug Gansler (D) (Previous: 5)
Well, he’s running. Gansler served two terms as Attorney General and was defeated in the 2014 gubernatorial primary by Anthony Brown. He has statewide connections and statewide campaign experience to be sure. Is he more personable and relatable than most of these candidates? Yes. Does he have a base? It’s hard to say. Does he have baggage? Absolutely though he claims that people don’t care about it. And he added more baggage when he oddly decided to bring Len Foxwell along for the ride. Will he be a formidable candidate if he runs? Time will tell, but it’s not off to a banger start.
#4: Wes Moore (D) (Previous: 4)
Moore is an author, non-profit executive, and retired Army officer that is an occasional darling of the Baltimore-area media. And he’s running for Governor as a Democrat. Which is interesting:
Moore, of course, has no connection to the Democratic establishment, no base, and no real path to victory at the moment. But he also doesn’t have the baggage that some other candidates do and has a national base that he can draw on, which may rocket him toward the front of a weak Democratic field. Of course when he peddles nonsense to that national base in order to get campaign support and starts following the Ben Jealous plan, what good is it really?
#3: Former County Executive Rushern Baker (Previous: 3)
This was as much of a surprise as Rutherford’s decision not to run. Last week, Maryland Matters reported that Rushern Baker would make a second run for Governor in 2022. He immediately jumps toward the head of the line due to his base in Prince George’s County and his experience as a candidate in 2018. He finished second in 2018 with 29% of the vote in a crowded field. He lost to Ben Jealous, but Democrats are less likely to go with an inexperienced candidate next year than they were in the 2018 election. Baker has statewide contacts and executive experience, a combination that many of the other candidates lack. It will be interesting to see if Baker stays at the front of the line going forward.
#2: Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz (R) (Previous: 2)
She’s in, and it’s starting to look like Kelly Schulz is going to be the only credible Republican running for governor. Secretary Schulz has an intriguing profile for a statewide candidate; former Delegate, secretary of two cabinet Departments, and a resident of Frederick County, now solidly a swing district. She’s been increasing her statewide profile, keynoting the Red Maryland Leadership Conference in 2021. Many Republicans floated the idea of a “dream ticket” with Schulz running for Lt. Governor as Boyd Rutherford’s running mate, but with Rutherford out of the race and Glassman running for Comptroller, the field in the Republican primary has basically been cleared. Just as important; with Angela Alsobrooks out, it appears that Schulz will be the only major party candidate for governor who is a woman.
#1: Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) (Previous: 1)
Normally a statewide elected official would have started higher on the list, not taken six months to make it to the top largely due to circumstances beyond his own control. But there’s nothing normal about Peter Franchot’s political trajectory. He was a radical left-wing Delegate turned budget conscience Democrat and now turning back into a radical left-wing Democrat in order to run for Governor. He fills no natural lane in this election; progressives distrust him, moderates distrust him. The Len Foxwell debacle hurts him in a number of ways, though less now that Foxwell has politically shanked his mentor and is iding with Gansler. He has a large bank account ($2,216,592.88 at the end of the 2020 cycle) and high name ID though, and that counts for something. He has a path to victory, but it’s much narrow than many would otherwise think. Uncertainty remains as to how his promotion of and relationship with a local gossip blogger will hurt him, something that is already causing fights in the Democratic intelligentsia. So far he’s ahead in the polls, but warning signs abound.
Dropping Out: Angela Alsobrooks (#6, announced she was running for re-election as Prince George’s County Executive), Michael Steel (#10)