May 2022 Maryland Gubernatorial Power Rankings
Are we seeing Gansler-mentum?
Welcome to this month’s installment of The Duckpin Maryland Gubernatorial Power Rankings. We are three months away from the primary and a little less than seven months from the General Election. 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 closer.
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 General Election at that time. Think of it as a snapshot in time.
Now, onto the list.
#10: Dan Cox and Robin Ficker (R) (Previous: NR)
Why am I still ranking Dan Cox and Robin Ficker together? Because they are basically the same candidate. Both were elected to one term in the House of Delegates. Both ran for Congress before finally winning an election. Both have won exactly one election. Both are running quixotic campaigns for Governor. And neither has a path to victory. Dan Cox and Robin Ficker are basically two peas in a pod. They are currently touring together on the B-team “debate” circuit. On top of it Dan Cox’s campaign continues to be weird and a liberal activist is suing to get Cox off the ballot. Meanwhile, Robin Ficker is on TikTok which is as surreal as it sounds.
#9: David Lashar (L) (Previous: 8)
Lashar is the rare Libertarian candidate who has public sector experience to go along with private sector experience. And he has a narrow path to victor, a scenario that would involve Dan Cox winning the Republican primary AND a radical Democrat winning the Democratic Primary. Is it likely? No. But that one scenario has a slightly higher probability of happening that Cox, Ficker, Jain et al winning a general election.
#8: Jon Baron (D) (Previous: 7)
The policy expert and former non-profit executive is trying to be the little engine that could. 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. His video about shaving was kinda funny though.
#7 Former County Executive Rushern Baker (Previous: 6)
I think we are all coming to the conclusion that Rushern Baker is just not going to be Governor. He immediately jumped toward the head of the line due to his base in Prince George’s County and his experience as a candidate in 2018. But it seems like he hasn’tt once been perceived as nearly the threat or the frontrunner that he was in 2018. I’m not entirely sure it’s any fault of his own; he happened to just run at a time where Democratic voters stopped valuing electability and experience. But there has not seemed to be any sense of urgency for Baker to turn this ship around. Realistically, this his last shot to be Governor. What move does he make?
#6: Former U.S. Secretary of Education John King (D) (Previous: 5)
King is 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. He also performed well at a recent debate, impressing onlookers. There may be some life to this campaign. And he’s being aggressive by going after Wes Moore and his record. But nobody really wants to vote for the guy who dresses up as policy positions for Halloween either because that person is a myopic fool who can’t let people have fun unmolested by politics.
#5: Former Attorney General Doug Gansler (D) (Previous: 9)
Gansler has rocketed up this list based on his performance at the Western Maryland Democratic Summit straw poll. A second place finish is awfully surprising to those only casually observing the Democratic Primary. Straw polls, of course, don’t win elections. But it is an interesting data point for a candidate that has not fared particularly well in public polling. Does he still have baggage? Absolutely though he claims that people don’t care about it. But Gansler seems like he is on the way up.
#4: Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) (Previous: 3)
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 siding with Gansler. He has an even large bank account (claiming $3.3 million cash-on-hand) and high name ID though, and that counts for something. But it seems as if his margin for error is rapidly shrinking. 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 (that relationship has seemed to have soured since Len Foxwell is no longer in Franchot’s employ, which is not a coincidence ). So far he’s been relatively ahead in the polls, but warning signs abound. The latest development is Franchot’s alleged involvement in the Takoma Junction Project; we’ll see what shakes out from that. The disastrous rollout of his running mate was even more troubling for Team Franchot. Say what you will about Len Foxwell, but the Franchot political operation did not make these kinds of mistakes on his watch. Nor would Franchot have made goofy promises he can’t control, like promising to let teachers board first at BWI Airport. Franchot looks like he is fading down the stretch due as much to his political careerism at it is his perceived “conservatism”.
#3: Former DNC Chairman Tom Perez (D) (Previous: 4)
Perez passes Franchot because it’s clear that Perez’s union endorsements are meaning something significant. Perez has added Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement to that of the UFCW endorsement; The UFCW endorsement is still amusing because the socialists have accused Perez of being a union buster. That help addresses Perez’s problem at this point; 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 he was not at all helped by being a former DNC Chairman after Terry McAuliffe bombed his campaign and lost to Glenn Youngkin out in Virginia, something that the far left of the Democratic Party quickly pounced on. Perez told Maryland Matters that he has the network to compete and the union endorsement helps. It’s not the MSTA endorsement, but it will be interesting to see if other endorsements follow. 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.
#2: Wes Moore (D) (Previous: 2)
Moore’s win at the Straw Poll is meaningful, but won’t propel him to victory; just ask Rushern Baker about his 2018 Western Democratic Party Summit win. But it is clear that Moore is a clear frontrunner in the Democratic Primary. Just the fact that Moore was able to bus supporters up to Rocky Gap for the poll shows a sense of organization that Moore did not originally have. But as we have seen, heavy is the head that wears the crown as Moore is quickly learning. Moore, of course, has no connection to the Democratic establishment, no base, and no real path to victory at the moment. I said that he may rocket him toward the front of a weak Democratic field, and he did. And you can tell that Moore is the perceived frontrunner by the Democrats for the recent dust-up regarding Moore’s background. He’s also starting to line up some endorsements the most significant of which is Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. Many (myself included) thought Alsobrooks would have been the favorite to be the Democratic nominee had she run, so that’s a pretty big get and moves him up a notch. 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?
#1: Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz (R) (Previous: 1)
She got The Duckpin endorsement, but this spot remains well earned. Kelly Schulz is the only credible Republican running for governor, and the Goucher Poll again boosted her immensely. That poll showed that people want a candidate who is not super-Trumpy and will govern similarly to the way that Larry Hogan has governed. It showed that Larry Hogan remains extremely popular in Maryland and that a candidate sharing his profile would do very well. The only candidate in the race who checks that box is Secretary Schulz. 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, Michael Steele not running and Glassman running for Comptroller, the field in the Republican primary has basically been cleared. Slow and steady often wins the race; just ask Larry Hogan about that, and the Schulz campaign is laying the groundwork for a long campaign in that model. Fringe Republicans are kvetching that the Schulz campaign is attacking Cox; what it tells me is that the campaign is taking nothing for granted and it’s a reminder that nobody is the winner of the primary until they win the primary no matter how much of the overwhelming favorite they are. It’s also a sign that the Schulz campaign is positioned to be very aggressive in the General Election campaign.