Wait, who are Kelly Schulz and Dan Cox?!

Republican Kelly Schulz is running for governor of Maryland with the endorsement of GOP incumbent Larry Hogan. But Democrats are buying ads that Schulz says will bolster his opponent — a far-right Trump endorser named Dan Cox.

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Narration: Recently, a Democratic political action committee came under fire for spending millions elevating far-right candidates who may be easier to defeat in November.

Among the most vocal critics was Kelly Schulz, a Republican candidate for governor of Maryland. The National Democrats have spent about $1 million elevating his main challenger, a Trump-backed candidate who organized buses for the Jan. 6 rally. And who she is currently neck and neck with in the polls.

To learn more about Schulz and his chances, I contacted Pamela Wood, a longtime political reporter now at the Baltimore Banner.

Michael Tabb: How long have you been following Kelly Schulz? When did she first appear on the scene?

Pamela Wood: Kelly Schulz has a really interesting story. She grew up in Michigan, and she was a student. And she got pregnant, and she had the baby, dropped out of school, worked various jobs, she was a bartender, she was a waitress. Eventually, she returned to college in her thirties, then became involved in local politics and was elected to the Maryland legislature.

And then when Larry Hogan was elected in 2014, Secretary Schulz was part of his… inner circle, she became Secretary of Labor. And then she was appointed Secretary of State for Commerce

Narration: In a state that has turned blue in every presidential election since 1992, Gov. Larry Hogan has made a name for himself as a moderate or “common sense” Republican, with a 65% approval rating.

Schulz runs with his approval and is now trying to recreate his winning strategy.

Wood: She’s trying to follow the same playbook of a pro-business Republican. She talks about portfolio issues like inflation. She talks about violence, which is a major concern in Maryland and Baltimore, in particular.

Narration: His main main challenger is State Rep. Dan Cox, who is running with Trump’s endorsement. Schulz’s campaign called Cox a conspiracy nut.

Wood: He’s talking about going back to the police from the broken windows where you lock people up for minor offenses like, you know, graffiti. He also mocks public schools and thinks there is some kind of terrible indoctrination. He is also a staunch supporter of election conspiracy theories that President Trump actually won in 2020.

Narration: Of course, these views are quite appealing to many Republican voters. That’s why these ads…

A d: Meet Dan Cox, Donald Trump’s hand-picked candidate for Governor of Maryland.

Narration: …which Democrats spent about $1 million to air, caused quite a stir.

A d: Cox will protect the Second Amendment at all costs.

Narration: Schulz said the “Meet Dan” ads are a transparent ploy to increase primary turnout for a Republican who wouldn’t stand a chance against the Democratic nominee.

Schulz: Any advertising…paid for by the Democratic Governors Association is advertising to deceive you…they’re afraid they’ll lose to me in November…I’m a threat standing in the way of one-party rule in Annapolis.

Tab: Are there any polls of hypothetical clashes in November, or is it really too early to do this sort of thing?

Wood: Well, certainly independent polls, there has been nothing to that degree. One thing we looked at in the Baltimore Banner poll was, we asked Democrats, would you consider Kelly Schulz? Or would you consider Dan Cox? Kelly Schulz is a more eligible Republican in Maryland than Dan Cox, our poll shows. It’s hard to see if there’s a path to general election victory for someone like Dan Cox, with, you know, few Democrats saying they’d even consider it. His chances of winning a general election are not zero, but they are probably not very high.

Tab: Thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate that.

Wood: Oh, yes, thank you. I’m glad it’s fun. I like to talk about Maryland politics. We’re not getting a lot of attention, but it’s been a wild ride from the governor this year.

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