The Washington Post

Gubernatorial hopeful Lollar finishes atop straw poll at convention of Md. Republicans

Charles Lollar speaks during a debate for Maryland Republican gubernatorial candidates at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore this month. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Charles County businessman Charles Lollar emerged as the top choice for Maryland governor in a splintered straw-poll vote taken Saturday by Republican Party activists.

Lollar received the support of 68 delegates attending the spring convention of the Maryland Republican Party. He was followed by Anne Arundel County businessman Larry Hogan with 62 and Harford County Executive David R. Craig with 60. Del. Ronald A. George (Anne Arundel) trailed with 29 votes.

Lollar said his victory was a major boost for a campaign that has lagged in fundraising and has been written off by many pundits in advance of the June 24 primary.

“This sends a very strong message to people across the state that we have what it takes to turn this thing around,” said Lollar, a member of the Marine Corps Reserve who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2010. “I’ve always felt like — and I still do — that at the end of the day, we’re going to win this primary.”

Lollar attributed his stronger-than-expected showing to a desire on the part of many Republicans to pick a nominee who has a chance of prevailing in November in a state in which Democrats have a more than 2-to-1 advantage in party registration.

Lollar, who is African American, has pitched himself as a candidate who can win a significant share of the Democratic vote in the general election. His initiatives include a plan to eliminate the personal-income tax in Maryland.

Saturday’s results also underscored the lack of a consensus choice among party activists.

Hogan, the founder of the watchdog group Change Maryland, was the last candidate to enter the race but has been its strongest fundraiser. He served as appointments secretary, a Cabinet position, under former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the last Republican to hold the post.

Craig is running largely on his long track record at various levels of government, while George, an Annapolis jeweler, has played up his business acumen and ability to work across the aisle in the legislature.

Saturday’s convention, held in Bethesda, was attended by many of the most dedicated GOP activists in the state, most of whom hold positions on county-level party central committees.

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

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