The 2022 primary sees a record Democratic gubernatorial field and a rare perennial GOP U.S. Senate candidate score a win

Although there may not be much drama in the deep blue state of Maryland come November, there were some interesting developments to come out of Tuesday’s primary.

On the Democratic side, eyes are big and wide as the party seeks to take advantage of popular Republican Governor Larry Hogan’s term-limited open seat.

A party record 10 Democrats appeared on the primary ballot including former DNC Chair Tom Perez, former U.S. Education Secretary John King, former state Attorney General Doug Gansler, and long-serving Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot.

But, with incomplete Election Day plus mail-in and provisional ballots still to be counted, it is author and former non-profit executive Wes Moore who leads the large field – by nearly double digits over Perez.

The 10 primary candidates bests the previous record of nine set just four years prior, when former NAACP president Ben Jealous defeated Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker by 10 points.

Across the 29 cycles since the first gubernatorial primary in Maryland in 1911, only four others saw more than five Democratic candidates in the primary:

  • 1962 (seven): Won by Governor J. Millard Tawes
  • 1966 (eight): Won by contractor George Mahoney on his fourth attempt
  • 1994 (seven): Won by Prince George’s County Executive Parris Glendening
  • 2014 (six): Won by Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown

Moore is currently sitting at a shade over 36 percent – which would be the second lowest support for a Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Maryland history behind only Mahoney’s 30.2 percent in 1966.

In the Republican race to take on U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, it was not as noteworthy that 10 candidates also lined the primary ballot this cycle – for massive fields have been par for the course in recent cycles.

The number of GOP candidates tallied 10 in 2006, 11 in 2010, 10 in 2012, 14 in 2016, and 11 in 2018.

Since 1986, an average of 10.4 Republicans have vied for their party’s nomination. [Democrats, who have held both seats in the chamber since 1987, have averaged 6.2 candidates].

What is unusual about the 2022 cycle is that it appears the projected GOP U.S. Senate nominee – contractor Chris Chaffee – will fall short of winning the support of even a quarter of the electorate.

Chaffee received 21.7 percent of the early and the incomplete Election Day vote with mail-in and provisional ballots also yet to be counted.

It seems Chaffee will eclipse the all-time low water mark for a major party Maryland U.S. Senate primary winner, set in 1998 by 81 year-old retired surgeon Ross Pierpont with just 18.4 percent.

Chaffee, like Pierpont, had made multiple prior attempts to secure his party’s nomination for the office placing runner-up in both the 2016 and 2018 primaries. Pierpont had failed campaigns in 1974, 1992, and 1994 (and 2000).

Just one other also-ran Republican U.S. Senate candidate later captured his party’s nomination in a subsequent campaign: former Governor and Comptroller Phillips Lee Goldsborough lost the 1916 GOP U.S. Senate primary to physician Joseph France but was victorious in 1928 en route to a general election victory.

The number of failed Maryland GOP U.S. Senate candidates who have run in multiple cycles without success is seemingly without end: John Hill (1926, 1934), Harry Lague (1956, 1958, 1962, 1964), James Gleason (1962, 1964), Harry Simms (1962, 1968, 1970), William Albaugh (1964, 1982), Howard Greyber (1986, 1994, 1998, 2000), Monroe Cornish (1986, 1988), Herbert Rosenberg (1986, 1988), Horace Rich (1986, 1988), Gene Zarwell (1988, 1992, 2004), John Webb (1988, 1994), Rob Sobhani (1992, 2000), Bill Krehnbrink (1992, 2018), Kenneth Wayman (1998, 2000), John Stafford (1998, 2000, 2004), Barry Asbury (1998, 2010), Earl Gordon (2004, 2006), Ray Bly (2004, 2006), Corrogan Vaughn (2004, 2006, 2012), Richard Shawver (2006, 2016), John Kimble (2006, 2010, 2012), Joseph Alexander (2010, 2012), Richard Douglas (2012, 2016), Brian Vaeth (2012, 2018), John Graziani (2016, 2018), and Nnabu Eze (2018, 2022).

That makes Chaffee just the third out of 29 failed GOP U.S. Senate candidates to become their party’s nominee.

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  1. Connor Cobb on July 20, 2022 at 4:58 pm

    I bet most outlets will make the gov race safe democratic with state representative Dan Cox as the republican nominatee.

  2. Flickertail-Pembina on July 22, 2022 at 9:16 am

    Prior to his carpetbagger candidacy against BHO in IL in 2004 and several presidential runs, Alan Lee Keyes bid for a MD US Senate seat in both 1988 and 1992. Unlike most on the aforementioned exhaustive list, he managed to snare the R nomination more than once.

    More broadly, it seems counterintuitive that the Republican primary contests for US senate have drawn more aspirants than the Democratic counterparts – arguably the only elections that have mattered after centre-left Republican “Mac” Mathias won his third term in 1980.

    Whatever chance the state Republicans had of a third straight gubernatorial win seems to have vanished with the defeat of mainline partisan Kelly Schulz (former state commerce secretary; backed by both departing lieutenant governor and very popular governor) by “MAGAt” Dan Cox. Will he manage to outperform any of his ticketmates (attorney general, comptroller, Class 3 Senate seat) come the 8th?

  3. John Chessant on July 25, 2022 at 7:58 pm

    The presence of two former cabinet secretaries in the Democratic primary field was also striking. The 2022 cycle is the first since 2002 to feature at least two gubernatorial candidacies by former cabinet-level officials. In 2002, *four* Clinton-era secretaries sought governorships: UN ambassador and energy secretary Bill Richardson was elected governor of New Mexico; attorney-general Janet Reno and labor secretary Robert Reich lost primaries for governor of Florida and Massachusetts, respectively; and housing secretary Andrew Cuomo withdrew from the Democratic primary for governor of New York but remained on the general election ballot as the nominee of the Liberal Party [he received 0.34% of the vote, effectively killing the once-influential third party as it has not had automatic ballot access since then].

    As for elections where two former cabinet secretaries campaigned against each other, I can think of just two other examples: the 1976 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in New York, which was won by former UN ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) while former attorney-general Ramsey Clark (D-N.Y.) placed third; and the 2002 U.S. Senate election in North Carolina, in which former transportation and labor secretary Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) defeated former SBA administrator and White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles (D-N.C.).

    A few other examples where one candidate was not quite of cabinet rank:
    *In 1843, appointed Sen. John J. Crittenden (W-Ky.), a former attorney-general, was elected by the state legislature to a full term in the Senate, defeating Richard Mentor Johnson (D-Ky.), a former vice-president. [The vice-president was not considered part of the cabinet at the time.]
    *In 1958, Gov. W. Averell Harriman (D-N.Y.), a former commerce secretary, was defeated for reelection by Nelson Rockefeller (R-N.Y.), a former under secretary of HEW; in 1970, Rockefeller defeated Arthur Goldberg (D-N.Y.), a former labor secretary, to win a fourth term as governor.
    *In 1996, Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), a former navy secretary, turned back a primary challenge from James C. Miller III (R-Va.), a former OMB director.
    *In 2008, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-Ind.), a former OMB director, defeated Jill Long Thompson (D-Ind.), a former under secretary of agriculture, to win a second term as governor.

    A near-miss occurred in the 1910 election for governor of Ohio, in which Gov. Judson Harmon (D-Ohio), a former U.S. attorney-general, won a second two-year term. James R. Garfield (R-Ohio), a former interior secretary, sought the Republican nomination but withdrew at the state convention. The nomination went to Warren G. Harding (R-Ohio), who went on to be elected as U.S. senator in 1914 and as president in 1920. [Garfield ran for governor again in 1914 on the Progressive Party line, placing third while incumbent Gov. James M. Cox (D-Ohio) placed second; Cox retook the governorship in 1916 and ran against Harding for president in 1920.]

    However, if we count presidential primaries, there are a few other cases. In 2000, education secretary Lamar Alexander and transportation and labor secretary Elizabeth Dole both launched campaigns but withdrew before the primaries began. [In the aforementioned banner year of 2002 for electoral campaigns by cabinet secretaries, both Alexander and Dole were elected to the U.S. Senate.] Likewise, the 1980 GOP field included UN ambassador (and CIA director) George H. W. Bush and treasury secretary John Connally; the 1988 GOP field included vice-president Bush and secretary of state Alexander Haig; and the 2020 Democratic field included vice-president Joe Biden and housing secretary Julián Castro.

    Re: above, Keyes and Sen. Joseph France are indeed the only two people to have lost more than one Senate election in Maryland as the GOP nominee. However, among all Maryland GOP Senate nominees there is technically one other who has lost two Senate elections in his lifetime: Keyes’s fellow carpetbagger Bill Brock. He was elected U.S. senator from Tennessee in 1970, lost reelection in 1976, and after serving as labor secretary in the Reagan administration, moved to Maryland and became the GOP nominee for Senate against Paul Sarbanes in 1994.

    • Flickertail-Pembina on July 25, 2022 at 11:47 pm

      For the record, “Bill” Brock III is arguably not a carpetbagger candidate for that 1994 contest – certainly not compared to “Bobby” Kennedy, James Buckley, and HRC (all for the Class 1 seat of NY!) as well as the aforementioned Keyes (Brock had been a legal resident of the Old Line State sometime before 1991).

    • Daniel Fox on July 29, 2022 at 2:20 pm

      Don’t forget the 1948 Senate race in New Mexico — Clinton P. Anderson (D), Ag Secretary 1945-48, defeated Patrick J. Hurley (R), Secretary of War 1929-33.

      • John Chessant on August 4, 2022 at 1:37 am

        Nice find!

        Sen. John Bell (W-Tenn.) was elected to a second term by the state legislature in 1853; he was a former secretary of war while his closest opponent was Cave Johnson (D-Tenn.), a former postmaster-general. [Bell went on to be the Constitutional Union candidate for president in 1860, winning three states.]

        And an almost example: The 1928 election for governor of New York featured two former _assistant_ secretaries: assistant navy secretary Franklin D. Roosevelt (D-N.Y.) and assistant attorney-general Albert Ottinger (R-N.Y.). [Ottinger, who lost to FDR by just 0.6%, was the uncle of Rep. Richard Ottinger (D-N.Y.), who likewise found himself on the wrong side of a close statewide election: he was the nominee for U.S. Senate in 1970 but lost to James L. Buckley by a margin of 39%-37%.]

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