The Democratic Governors Association is spending heavily to boost a far-right Republican candidate ahead of Maryland’s gubernatorial primary next month.
The DGA has bought television ads totaling more than $1 million promoting state delegate Dan Cox in the two weeks leading up to the July 19 primary. The ads, which will run throughout the Baltimore media market, will highlight Mr. Cox’s endorsement by former President Donald Trump and his hard-line views on the illegitimacy of the 2020 election.
“For months, multiple polls have shown Dan Cox is firmly in the driver’s seat of Maryland’s Republican primary, with the total backing of Donald Trump,” said Sam Newton, the DGA‘S deputy communications director. “Given Cox’s frontrunner status and radical MAGA stances, we are starting the general election early and wasting no time to hold him accountable.”
While the ads are negative in tone, political strategists say the Democrats are angling to raise Mr. Cox’s profile by giving GOP primary voters the impression that his candidacy is a severe threat.
“It’s a dishonest tactic, especially from a party that is always harping on about the need to protect democracy,” Towson University political science professor Richard Vatz said. “All in all, supporting a bad candidate on the other side is a smart political tactic, but it’s insanely unethical and it’s bad for politics in Maryland as a whole.”
Mr. Cox is in a heated primary race with former Maryland Secretary of Commerce Kelly Schulz. Mrs. Schulz has the backing of retiring Gov. Larry Hogan and much of the state’s GOP establishment.
Recent polling has shown Mrs. Schulz leading Mr. Cox narrowly, with more than a third of the GOP electorate still undecided.
Mrs. Schulz said the DGA’s meddling within the GOP primary is because Democrats recognize she is a threat to their hopes of taking back the governorship.
“They’re only doing [this] for one reason, they’re doing it because they know I’m the only candidate that can beat a tax and spend liberal in November,” Mrs. Schulz said. “Democrats do not want me to win.”
Mrs. Schulz has raised the most money of any of the Republicans running. In the first six months of this year alone, Mrs. Schulz raised nearly a million dollars.
By mid-June, her campaign had more than $780,000 cash on hand, compared to only $183,000 for Mr. Cox. He has spent just $145,000 on radio ads in the past six months.
Political analysts say that apart from fundraising problems, Mr. Cox is simply too conservative for Maryland — a state that President Biden by more than 30 percentage points.
“Cox has called for a forensic audit of the 2020 election, he’s pushed to impeach Larry Hogan in the past,” Mr. Vatz said. “Those issues don’t fly in deep-blue Maryland, he’s an extremist and there is no chance he could win the governorship.”
Neither Mr. Cox nor the DGA responded to requests for comment.
Democrats are increasingly muscling into GOP primaries this cycle, especially in highly competitive races.
In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic candidate for governor, worked to boost the campaign of controversial state Sen. Doug Mastriano in a nine-person GOP primary.
Mr. Mastriano won the primary but is seen as an underdog in November. Ironically, Mr. Mastriano has endorsed Mr. Cox and even campaigned alongside him last week in Maryland.
Correction: A previous version of this article gave the wrong dollar figure for the ad buy. It was more than $1 million.