September 2021 Maryland Gubernatorial Power Rankings

The Deck gets Shuffled

Welcome to the August 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.

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.

Being the dog days of August, there isn’t a whole lot of moving and shaking going on.

#10: Delegate Dan Cox (R) (Previous: 10)
Cox announced on the 4th of July that he was going to run for Governor to a muted reception. Most people, even diehard Trump supporters in Maryland, just didn’t care. Cox is completely unqualified to be Governor and he has almost no chance of winning the Republican primary. Why is he even on this list? Because if Donald Trump interferes in the race and makes an endorsement (which is what Cox is banking on) he has a puncher’s chance of being competitive in the primary. Why else is he poorly regurgitating nonsense statements from Trump on his political Facebook page? Why else is he pushing bogus, nonsense claims about election fraud in Maryland? If Trump told Cox to jump off a bridge Cox would be freefalling before Trump even finished the sentence; Cox is a Trump lackey and everybody knows it. Let me be clear; Cox has no chance of winning a statewide election; he’s merely the latest in a line of candidates that includes Brian Murphy and Charles Lollar. In fact, Cox may very well be Lollar 2.0 considering the spelling challenges Cox’s campaign has had in the recent silliness.

Here’s a picture of Cox looking like what his true calling may be: a low rent game show host.

#9: Former U.S. Secretary of Education John King (D) (Previous: 9)
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: Jon Baron (D) (Previous: 8)
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.

#7: Former Attorney General Doug Gansler (D) (Previous: 6)
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? Time will tell, but it’s not off to a banger start.

#6: Former County Executive Rushern Baker (Previous: 5)
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. 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. But what exactly is Baker doing? His campaign has been nearly invisible, and the Perez endorsement bumps him down on this list. Baker has statewide contacts and executive experience, a combination that many of the other candidates lack. But it already feels like the Baker campaign is fading, certainly as it compares to his ‘18 run.

#5: Former Lt. Governor Michael Steele (R) (Previous: 5)
Steele jumps back on this list because he announced a last month that he had formed an exploratory committee to enter the race. It’s still unclear, however, exactly why he’s running or what his path for victory is. I suggested last month that Steele run for U.S. Senate instead of Governor, and a recent podcast interview certainly focused more on federal and national issues than it did with Maryland. And when Steele was asked directly about running for Governor, he did not give much of a clear answer to why he was running. Steele is a more likely GOP primary winner than lesser candidates like Dan Cox or Robin Ficker. But that doesn’t mean he has a path to win, either, especially if Steele’s campaign is going to get themselves tied up in silliness with the Cox campaign.

#4: Former DNC Chairman Tom Perez (D) (Previous: 6)
Perez rockets up this list on the basis of receiving the UFCW endorsement; which is only 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 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.

#3: 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? He only moves up the list because of the inactivity of the Baker campaign.

#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)
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 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. The latest development is Franchot’s alleged involvement in the Takoma Junction Project; we’ll what shakes out from that.