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BALTIMORE — A Republican Maryland lawmaker who is running for governor took a step Thursday in an attempt to impeach Gov. Larry Hogan, a fellow Republican.
Del. Dan Cox, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump in his own run for governor in 2022, introduced a resolution in the House of Delegates that calls for an impeachment of the governor.
Cox, who represents portions of Carroll and Frederick counties, did not respond to repeated requests for comment Thursday and was not present for the introduction of the resolution, as the House was operating in a limited-attendance session under coronavirus protocols.
Cox’s resolution calls for the impeachment for alleged “malfeasance in office, misuse of the police power, violations of the separation of powers, theft of the people’s liberty and property, deprivation of the religious liberties of the people, and abuse of power under false pretenses.”
Over five pages, the resolution lays out a series of complaints against the governor, from his pandemic health restrictions to a well-publicized purchase of coronavirus test kits from a South Korean company that initially couldn’t be used.
Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci offered a written response to Cox’s resolution: “This guy is known to be a QAnon conspiracy theorist. He has this weird obsession with the governor. Surprised that it took this long, frankly.”
The impeachment effort faces uncertain odds in the General Assembly, even with a large Democratic majority that has criticized Hogan frequently.
House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, would say only that the impeachment resolution was “forwarded to the Rules Committee, which will be dealing with that.” Comprised of 26 delegates, the panel is not required to hold a hearing or vote on this or any measure.
The top-ranking Republican in the House of Delegates said Cox lacks backing from members of his own party.
“Our caucus is not supportive of any efforts to impeach Gov. Hogan,” said Del. Jason Buckel, an Allegany County Republican and House minority leader. “There’s nothing new in the resolution that hasn’t been discussed or covered by media or been the subject of political discourse.”
Buckel said Cox has not brought the issue of impeachment before the 42-member Republican caucus, and noted no other delegates signed on as co-sponsors.
The Republican governor, who is finishing his second and final term in office, enjoys wide support across the political spectrum, with recent polling putting his approval rating at 74%.
Cox’s impeachment attempt, even with unlikely odds of success, lays bare conflicts within the Republican Party over support for the twice-impeached ex-president.
Cox is part of the wing of the party that has offered full-throated support for Trump, while Hogan has clearly steered away from the former president, voting in 2020 for the late President Ronald Reagan and in 2016 for his father.
Dirk Haire, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, said Cox’s impeachment resolution is a political stunt that could harm fellow Republicans.
“The last thing we need are frivolous stunts like this that divide us and help the Democrats,” Haire said in a statement.
On social media, Cox has used the #stopthesteal hashtag favored by pro-Trump conspiracy theorists who believe the 2020 election was invalid.
Cox says on his campaign website that he was “a Philadelphia team member of lawyers for Trump Presidential campaign for three weeks during the 2020 election fighting for every legal vote to count.”
Cox also helped organize a bus to bring people to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, the day the election was certified and pro-Trump loyalists overran the U.S. Capitol building.
That afternoon, Cox criticized then-Vice President Mike Pence, apparently for not trying to halt the tally of Electoral College votes. At 3:21 p.m., more than an hour after rioters breached the Capitol, Cox posted on Twitter: “Pence is a traitor.”
Hogan, who has no patience for Cox, also derided him in 2021 as a “QAnon conspiracy theorist.” Hogan’s term ends in January 2023 and he is barred by term limits from running again.
Cox has been critical of Hogan since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Cox led an unsuccessful lawsuit that challenged Hogan’s stay-at-home directive and other public health orders. An attorney, Cox also represented a Harford County father and son who attempted to vote in person that year without wearing masks, as required at the time.
As a gubernatorial candidate, Cox has railed about vaccine requirements and mask mandates, though he does wear a mask in the House of Delegates chamber as required.
Should the resolution advance from the House Rules Committee, the Maryland Constitution and General Assembly rules lay out a procedure similar to that of Congress for impeaching a president. A majority of members of the House of Delegates would have to agree to the impeachment, then the Senate would hold a trial with a two-thirds vote needed to convict.
The team of Hogan’s endorsed candidate for governor, Kelly Schulz, dismissed the impeachment attempt as an ill-advised action from a poorly qualified candidate.
“A person who believes that Mike Pence is a traitor and that the Chinese Communist Party has infiltrated Maryland state government is not a rational actor,” said Doug Mayer, a senior adviser to Schulz’s campaign, in a statement.
The last time an impeachment attempt was made was in 2010, when then-Del. Don Dwyer of Anne Arundel County tried to impeach the attorney general at the time, Doug Gansler. Dwyer, a conservative Republican, had disagreed with a ruling from Gansler that Maryland could recognize same-sex marriages from other states. (Such marriages were not yet legal in Maryland or nationwide at the time.)
Dwyer’s move was clouded by uncertainty over whether the General Assembly even had the legal authority to impeach an attorney general. His impeachment resolution was sent to the House Judiciary Committee, which rejected it on a 15-to-5 vote.
(Baltimore Sun reporter Bryn Stole contributed to this article.)