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State delegate who is Trump loyalist enters Maryland governor’s race

Del. Daniel L. Cox (R-Frederick), who is running for governor, holds up a copy of the Declaration of Independence at a “Reopen Maryland” rally early in the coronavirus pandemic.
Del. Daniel L. Cox (R-Frederick), who is running for governor, holds up a copy of the Declaration of Independence at a “Reopen Maryland” rally early in the coronavirus pandemic. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
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Del. Daniel L. Cox, a conservative Republican lawmaker from Frederick County and staunch supporter of former president Donald Trump, announced late Sunday night that he is running for Maryland governor.

His entrance into the race is likely to expose Republican Party fissures that have played out nationally between establishment members of the party and Trump supporters.

Cox, a lawyer and first-term delegate, has become one of the most outspoken conservative members of the General Assembly in Annapolis over the past two years. He has fought against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election, filed a lawsuit against Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to challenge his stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic and represented a Harford County man who sued local officials for arresting him at a polling place for not wearing a mask.

As rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Cox tweeted that Vice President Mike Pence — who was being criticized by Trump for not overturning the results of the election — was “a traitor.”

Cox announced his gubernatorial bid on social media with a link to a campaign video that emphasized themes of freedom and patriotism. “On this 4th of July 2021, Valerie and I are announcing that I am stepping up to run to be your next Governor of Maryland to restore Freedom to the Free State,” he wrote on his Facebook page, referring to his wife.

Cox, who did not respond to a call and text message requesting comment, joins Kelly M. Schulz, the state’s commerce secretary, and perennial candidate Robin Ficker in the Republican primary.

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Schulz is considered a protege of Hogan, who has maintained record-high approval ratings in a blue state in part because of his repeated condemnation of Trump.

The Maryland Democratic Party was almost giddy in a news release last week about a possible Cox candidacy and the impact it could have on Schulz, requiring her to take a position on some of Trump’s more extreme positions and compete with Cox for the backing of the right wing of the party.

Republicans are trying to retain the governor’s mansion when Hogan, who is term-limited, leaves office in January 2023.

Nine Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination. They are Peter Franchot, the state comptroller; Tom Perez, a former Democratic National Committee chairman and former labor secretary; John B. King Jr., a former education secretary; Wes Moore, a former chief executive of the Robin Hood Foundation; Rushern L. Baker III, a former Prince George’s county executive; Douglas F. Gansler, a former attorney general; Mike Rosenbaum, a Baltimore-based business owner and economist; Ashwani Jain, a former Montgomery County Council candidate; and Jon Baron, a former government employee and nonprofit executive.

Cox is a native of Maryland and has worked as a constitutional lawyer for 15 years, according to his campaign bio.

He attended Mount St. Mary’s College, graduated from the University of Maryland and received his law degree from Regent University School of Law. According to his biography, he worked in Philadelphia as a volunteer lawyer to fight the 2020 election results. He and his wife live in Frederick and have nine children.

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Cox said on his website that he will “govern with constitutional integrity. He offers a five-point “Contract with Maryland” that he says “is founded in our individual liberty interests to protect and defend every Marylander of all persuasions, and to advance America First policy objectives.”

After Cox’s comment about Pence, Hogan called the state lawmaker, who organized buses to the “stop the steal” rally that preceded the Capitol breach, a “Q-Anon conspiracy theorist.”

Amid calls for him to be censured over the tweet, Cox wrote an apologetic letter to the leaders of the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics.

“At no time was I calling his action ‘treason’ or ‘sedition’ which are legal terms of art,” the emailed letter said. “I intended the verbiage to convey a betrayal of us his voters and a deep disappointment.”

Cox wrote that he drafted the tweet aboard a bus leaving Washington and was unaware of the deadly violence unfolding at the Capitol around the same time.

Asked about Cox in January, Hogan said: “He is not the kind of person I would vote to put in the legislature or support in any way — for anything.”

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