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Who is Dan Cox?

The projected Maryland GOP nominee was endorsed by Donald Trump and the Democratic Governors Association spent big bucks trying to assure his victory

Dan Cox, a candidate for Maryland's Republican gubernatorial nomination, reacts to his primary win in Emmitsburg. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
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Conservative Republican Del. Daniel L. Cox vigorously fought against the certification of President Biden’s 2020 victory and Maryland’s coronavirus mitigation measures.

He launched a failed attempt to impeach Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, accusing him of malfeasance in office, theft of “the people’s liberty and property,” and “deprivation of the religious liberties of the people.”

As rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, he called Vice President Mike Pence “a traitor” in a tweet he then deleted — later expressing regret for his choice of words.

Now, Cox is projected to become the Republican nominee for governor in November to replace the outgoing Hogan. With former president Donald Trump’s endorsement, he beat Kelly M. Schulz, the former state commerce secretary, in a race shaped by deep divisions across the country between members of the GOP establishment and supporters of former president Donald Trump.

“This is a fantastic night for freedom everywhere,” Cox told a cheering crowd as he declared victory.

[Cox projected to win Maryland’s gubernatorial primary]

Cox also got an unusual hand from the Democratic Governors Association, which spent money in Maryland — and other primaries across the country — to bolster candidates it hopes are too extreme to win the general election.

[Democratic meddling in GOP primaries prompts concern over elevating election deniers]

“It may be Maryland, but Republicans are Republicans, and Trump is incredibly popular among Republicans, and he’s immensely popular among the base of the party,” Todd Eberly, a professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said of the Republican primary. “Cox is the perfect candidate for an election that is all about the base — and when most folks aren’t paying attention.”

As of late Tuesday night, Cox was beating Schulz by 16 points with nearly 70 percent of the vote reporting, according to the Associated Press.

[Full Maryland primary results]

Cox, 47, campaigned on hard-right stances he hoped would lift him to a win as they did Doug Mastriano in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial primary: dramatically restricting abortions, banning mask and vaccine mandates for the coronavirus, fighting against transgender rights and demanding a federal audit of the 2020 elections.

Similar to Mastriano, Cox chartered buses for the Trump rally near the White House that preceded the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. They both attended a conference in Gettysburg, Pa., this spring that promoted QAnon and baseless claims about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. According to published reports, Cox was joined there by Liz Harrington, a spokeswoman for Trump, and former Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis.

Schulz’s campaign has labeled Cox “unstable” and “unfit for office.” Last year, Hogan, her former boss, called him a “QAnon whack job.” Meanwhile in a recent phone call to rally Cox supporters, Trump called Cox “a highly respected lawyer who is tough and smart … Dan is MAGA all the way. Unlike his opponent named Kelly Schulz who along with Larry Hogan, bad news.”

Cox, who did not respond to earlier calls seeking comment, told the hundreds — including Mastriano and former U.S. Senate candidate Alan Keyes — gathered at a Carroll County farm in sweltering summer heat recently that his campaign, run by one of his daughters, was outpacing the deep-pocketed Schulz campaign.

“We are running ahead in the polls, we are strong, we are organized. … We are getting out the message,” he said.

He asked his supporters a string of questions based on his platform. Who among them believed, like his opponent, he asked, that the events of Jan. 6 were an insurrection and that Trump was responsible for it? The crowd booed. Who thought providing taxpayer-funded abortions to trafficked women from other states and countries was acceptable? The crowd yelled, “No!”

“We’re going to defund the taxpayer-paid abortions,” Cox said to cheers.

Cox said he also wants to see changes in the state’s gun-control laws, including gun-permit laws, a red-flag law that allows the seizure of guns from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others, and a ghost-gun law that prohibits the assembly of homemade firearms.

“I intend to change all of that,” the one-term delegate from Frederick County said. “These are our freedoms; these are our rights. They can’t take them from us. This is how we protect ourselves. With the riots that have happened, we should have something to defend our families with.”

He called for his supporters to donate to his campaign (in recent filings he had $188,000 to spend compared with Schulz’s $784,900), and to bump up their outreach efforts to “crush the liberal wing of the party.”

Cox, who was first elected to the Maryland General Assembly in 2018, is one of the most conservative figures in the state legislature.

In the past year, he was the prime sponsor on bills seeking to restrict abortions; limit the governor’s authority in states of emergency; and require that schools provide parents information about the health and well-being of their children. Child welfare advocates argued that schools’ reporting on children could in some instances — including in child-abuse cases — expose children to additional harm.

Cox graduated from Regent University School of Law in 2006, according to his legislative biography. He was born in Washington and attended Walkersville Christian Family Schools, where he would later become a teacher. He has also worked as a real estate agent but now runs his own law firm, which sued Hogan over coronavirus restrictions and stay-at-home orders during the pandemic. He also represented a Harford County man who sued local officials for arresting him at a polling place for not wearing a mask during the pandemic.

“I’m the only candidate that’s willing to give people their freedom back,” Cox told the rally, calling the 2020 election a fraud and planting a “stop the steal” seed about the upcoming Maryland election. “I’m an ‘America First’ Republican. We’re going to win.”

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