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Rutherford says he won’t run for Md. governor in 2022; commerce secretary launches bid

Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R) speaks during a tour of a coronavirus vaccination site at the First Baptist Church of Highland Park in Landover on March 18.
Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R) speaks during a tour of a coronavirus vaccination site at the First Baptist Church of Highland Park in Landover on March 18. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R) has decided not to seek the state’s top job in 2022, creating a wide-open GOP primary and leaving Gov. Larry Hogan’s extensive political operation without an heir apparent. Hogan, who is term-limited, is set to leave office in 2023.

Hours after Rutherford’s announcement, Hogan Cabinet secretary Kelly M. Schulz released a campaign video saying she would seek the Republican nomination.

Schulz, 52, served as labor secretary when Hogan took office in 2015, after a term representing Frederick County in the House of Delegates. She has been commerce secretary since 2019.

In her video, Schulz said she was running “to build on all of our past successes” and was inspired by the resilience she has seen in residents during the pandemic.

Rutherford, 64, had been mulling a run but as of June had amassed under $25,000 to finance it, dramatically less than other potential contenders.

“I just did not want it bad it enough,” he said in an interview, adding that he does not plan to support anyone in the GOP primary. “I really didn’t care about who was interested in running, but I didn’t want it to linger.”

Known as a wonky administrator who relishes the operational aspects of government, Rutherford has not won public office outside of his partnership with Hogan. He said in a statement Wednesday that it was in his “family’s best interest” that he not launch a campaign.

In the interview, he added that although he gave serious consideration to running in recent months, it had not been his long-term goal when he joined the Hogan ticket in 2014.

“I didn’t have my eye on the governor’s seat. I wasn’t looking to push Hogan down the steps or anything to be the next governor,” he quipped.

The website Maryland Matters first reported Rutherford’s decision.

Hogan and Rutherford in 2018 became just the second Republican ticket in a half-century to win reelection in Democratic-dominated Maryland, relying on support — built largely through social media — of Republicans, independents and some Democrats. Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by a margin of 2 to 1 in the state.

Rutherford’s decision not to enter the 2022 GOP field raises questions about whether another candidate could both woo Maryland Republicans — who were deeply supportive of President Donald Trump — and hold together the statewide coalition that propelled the Hogan-Rutherford victory.

“Coalitions are not baseball cards. They can’t be traded,” said Doug Mayer, a Republican strategist and Hogan adviser. At the same time, he added, “it’s entirely possible” that another Republican could figure out how to appeal to the same cross-section of voters.

Among the Republicans considering a run for governor next year is Michael Steele, a leading Trump critic who is a former chair of the Republican National Committee and who served as lieutenant governor under Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R).

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, a former state lawmaker who is term-limited in his current role, is also considering a bid and has said he will make an announcement about his political future on Thursday.

Rutherford said that after leaving office in January 2023, he wants to resume his legal career, keep working on his Spanish and potentially resume playing the trumpet.

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