The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The Post endorses Kelly Schulz in the GOP primary for Maryland governor

Kelly Schulz at a news conference in Annapolis on April 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)
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Kelly M. Schulz, a Republican running for her party’s gubernatorial nomination in next month’s primary, is a down-to-earth, even-keeled pragmatist with broad experience in state government who would be a viable candidate in November’s general election, judging by the enthusiastic support she has from the highly popular GOP incumbent, Gov. Larry Hogan. Her main primary opponent, who has courted QAnon conspiracists and called former vice president Mike Pence a “traitor” for upholding the 2020 presidential election results, is an extremist who would be trounced.

The Post endorses Ms. Schulz in the July 19 primary. We support her not only because she is a competent, results-oriented public servant, well qualified for the governorship, but also because Maryland benefits from a vibrant two-party system. Ms. Schulz would further that agenda. Her chief rival in the primary, Del. Daniel L. Cox of Frederick County, would render Republicans electorally irrelevant in a state where registered Democrats outnumber the GOP 2 to 1.

Ms. Schulz, by temperament and by apparent strategic design, has modeled herself on Mr. Hogan, who is leaving office after two consecutive terms, the constitutional maximum. Her campaign has borrowed heavily from his first gubernatorial bid, in 2014, when he won an upset victory. Who can blame her? The governor, having governed as an anti-Trump, relatively non-divisive centrist, enjoys stratospheric approval ratings, including from Democrats.

Like Mr. Hogan in 2014, Ms. Schulz has eschewed detailed policy positions in favor of a handful of brisk talking points, chief among them her opposition to higher taxes. She has also embraced school choice and a tough law-and-order response to the jarring spike in violent crime, especially in Baltimore. She favors Mr. Hogan’s plan to expand the Beltway and Interstate 270 in Montgomery County, although she would also slash transportation revenue by decoupling the state’s gas tax from an inflation index. What her stances lack in detail they make up for in message discipline — she repeats them metronomically, leaving no doubt about her priorities.

She is no lightweight. Having dropped out of college at age 19 while pregnant with her first son, she waited tables and tended bar before embarking on a career as a community activist, small business owner, state delegate representing Frederick County and, under Mr. Hogan, the head of two state cabinet-level agencies: the Labor Department and, for three years, the Commerce Department. In the latter job she played a key role keeping businesses afloat during the pandemic and was the state’s chief economic development officer, learning firsthand the challenges of recruiting businesses to relocate in Maryland. (At age 37, she also completed her college degree.)

We part ways with Ms. Schulz on some issues, but there is no doubt she is a moderate interested in sound governance, not partisan bonfires.

The opposite is true of Mr. Cox, who touts his endorsement from Donald Trump, denies President Biden’s election victory, and organized buses for last year’s Jan. 6 rally, which turned into a violent attack on the Capitol. This spring he spoke at a QAnon-infected rally in Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, where organizers played a video asserting the world is undergoing “a great awakening” that will expose “ritual child sacrifice” and a “global satanic blood cult.”

A vote in the primary for Mr. Cox is a vote for Republican oblivion in Maryland. A vote for Ms. Schulz is a vote for sanity.