Del. Cox officially announces gubernatorial bid

Jul. 6—State Del. Dan Cox, a conservative Republican well-known for his ardent support of former President Donald Trump, has officially announced his campaign for governor.

The District 4 delegate publicized his candidacy on Twitter and Facebook Sunday, less than a week after forming a committee to explore a potential run. Cox, who represents parts of Frederick County, hasn't returned multiple requests for comment from the News-Post and other news organizations over the past week.

In a video announcing his candidacy, Cox called critical race theory — something of a template for examining how racism is embedded in America's institutions — "propaganda" and said he would push for a bipartisan effort to lower Marylander's taxes.

"I believe in stimulating the economy by leaving the money you've earned in your pocket," he said.

Cox, a lawyer, has built his name recognition after finding himself at the center of numerous controversies during his first term in Annapolis. He unsuccessfully sued Gov. Larry Hogan (R) over the state's COVID restrictions, expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory, compared a mental health care bill to the Holocaust and tweeted during the Jan. 6 insurrection of the U.S. Capitol that then-Vice President Mike Pence was a "traitor" for certifying the 2020 presidential election results.

Since taking office in 2019 , two bills that Cox was the lead sponsor for passed the legislature unanimously. The first established a task force to study crime classifications and penalties, and the second required courts to post a human trafficking hotline. In the most recent session, he advocated for a bill that would've ended Maryland's state of emergency amid the pandemic. The legislation didn't make it to a vote.

Cox joins Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz — herself a former Frederick County delegate — and Montgomery County anti-tax activist Robin Ficker in the Republican field for governor.

On Wednesday, the Maryland Democratic Party issued a press release titled "Maryland Republican Primary Gets Messy," which opines Cox's presence in the race will force Schulz to more clearly establish where she stands with Trump.

"The Republicans are in a Trump-loyalty race to the bottom," Democratic Party Chairwoman Yvette Lewis said in the release. "Del. Dan Cox's entrance into the 2022 field guarantees a messy MAGA primary for the Republican Party."

Cox's decision last week to explore a run for governor surprised his colleagues in the county's Republican Central Committee. Several people who spoke with the News-Post said they weren't aware of Cox's interest in running until after he filed with the board of elections as a potential candidate.

Fellow District 4 delegate and Central Committee member Barrie Ciliberti (R) said on June 30 that he didn't see a clear path to victory for Cox given his past actions.

"If he has visions of becoming governor, God bless him," Ciliberti said. "But that's a steep mountain to climb."

Committee member Stephen Barrett was more optimistic about Cox's chances.

"He's not fresh meat in the party," Barrett said Monday. "He's got history."

In 2016, Cox squared off with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D) for the state's 8th congressional district seat. Raskin won handily.

Barrett said he saw a wave of support for Cox after the delegate filed suit against Hogan. Cox may have hindered his chances by joining the race late compared with Schulz and Ficker, Barrett said.

The Central Committee's bylaws prohibit the body from endorsing candidates in a contested primary election, but individual members can offer their support for a specific candidate.

Billy Shreve, a committee member who served as county commissioner and county councilman, said Cox will run more to the right than Schulz, who has held two positions in Hogan's cabinet and who may have to decide how closely to align herself with the governor — as well as with the former president.

Shreve said last week that he expects more candidates to join the race to succeed Hogan — who is term-limited — before next year's filing deadline.

The Baltimore Sun reported in April that MSNBC commentator and former lieutenant governor Michael Steele was considering joining the Republican field.

Others looking to join the race have until 9 p.m. Feb. 22, 2022, to file the necessary paperwork to run.

Nine Democrats have announced campaigns for governor. They are: Rushern Baker, the former Prince George's County executive; Jon Baron, a former nonprofit executive and federal official; Peter Franchot, the state's comptroller; Doug Gansler, a former attorney general of Maryland; Ashwani K. Jain, a former official in the Obama administration; John King Jr., a former U.S. secretary of education; Wes Moore, an author and businessman; Tom Perez, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and U.S. secretary of labor; and Mike Rosenbaum, a businessman.

The state's primary is scheduled for June 28, 2022, and the general election is slotted for Nov. 8.

Follow Jack Hogan on Twitter: @jckhogan