December 2021 Gubernatorial Power Rankings
A status check as we head to the new year
Welcome to the November installment of The Duckpin Maryland Gubernatorial Power Rankings. These rankings will list, in my estimation, the contenders for the office of Governor of Maryland on a 1-10 scale. This list will be updated every month; maybe more once we get to 2022 itself.
The rankings are a combination of polls, data, political environment, and gut feelings. It is not necessarily a ranking in order of who I think should be elected Governor, but who is best positioned to win the November 2022 General Election at that time. Think of it as a snapshot in time.
So long Mike Rosenbaum, we hardly knew ya. He dropped out hours after our Chalk Session about his campaign commercial was released. That’s one.
Now, onto the list.
#10: David Lashar (L) (Previous: NR)
How far off the beaten path are Dan Cox, Robin Ficker, Ashwani Jain and other major party candidates for them to not make the top ten, but the Libertarian nominee does? Lashar is the rare Libertarian candidate who has public sector experience to go along with private sector experience. And he has a narrow path to victor, a scenario that would involve Dan Cox winning the Republican Party AND a radical Democrat winning the Democratic Primary. Is it likely? No. But that one scenario has a slightly higher probability of happening that Cox, Ficker, Jain et al winning a general election.
#9: Former Lt. Governor Michael Steele (R) (Previous: 10)
Steele is falling backward on this list It’s still unclear, however, exactly why he’s running or what his path for victory is. I suggested that Steele run for U.S. Senate instead of Governor, and a recent podcast interview certainly focused more on federal and national issues than it did with Maryland. And when Steele was asked directly about running for Governor, he did not give much of a clear answer to why he was running. Steele is a more likely GOP primary winner than lesser candidates like Cox or Robin Ficker. But that doesn’t mean he has a path to win, either, especially if Steele’s campaign is going to get themselves tied up in silliness with the Cox campaign. The Goucher Poll and the Youngkin win in Virginia tells me that the argument for Steele isn’t as obvious as the Steele camp thinks it is.
#8: Jon Baron (D) (Previous: 8)
The policy expert and former non-profit executive is trying to be the little engine that could. Baron may be running, but he is going to face problems heading into any serious campaign. The Democratic primary voter has shown that they are looking for a firebrand with unserious and bombastic policy solutions. Not a policy wonk and technocrat. Nor will friends making comments like “I immediately presumed that he would be running as a Republican” help at all with the left-wing primary base.
#7: Former U.S. Secretary of Education John King (D) (Previous: 7)
He’s still a relative newcomer to Maryland Politics. This makes him completely unknown in a Maryland Democratic Party that is simultaneously moving further and further to the left but also has a tremendous distrust of outside candidates, particularly after the 2018 election. But he also has no baggage with him from years and decades of Maryland Democratic Party inside baseball. King has a high ceiling in his race, with many of his Obama connections likely to find their way back to Washington in new roles with the Biden Administration. He also performed well at a recent debate, impressing onlookers. There may be some life her to this campaign. But nobody really wants to vote for the guy who dresses up as policy positions for Halloween either because that person is a myopic fool who can’t let people have fun unmolested by politics.
#6: Former Attorney General Doug Gansler (D) (Previous: 6)
Well, he’s running. Gansler served two terms as Attorney General and was defeated in the 2014 gubernatorial primary by Anthony Brown. He has statewide connections and statewide campaign experience to be sure. Is he more personable and relatable than most of these candidates? Yes. Does he have a base? It’s hard to say. Does he have baggage? Absolutely though he claims that people don’t care about it. And he added more baggage when he oddly decided to bring Len Foxwell along for the ride. Will he be a formidable candidate? Time will tell, but it’s not off to a banger start.
#5: Former County Executive Rushern Baker (Previous: 4)
Baker drops through no fault of his own. He immediately jumped toward the head of the line due to his base in Prince George’s County and his experience as a candidate in 2018. He finished second in 2018 with 29% of the vote in a crowded field. He lost to Ben Jealous, but Democrats are less likely to go with an inexperienced candidate next year than they were in the 2018 election. But what exactly is Baker doing? Baker has statewide contacts and executive experience, a combination that many of the other candidates lack. He’s also obviously learned from his 2018 campaign, citing his late selection of Elizabeth Embry in that race as the reason he has already selected Montgomery County Councilwoman Nancy Navarro as his #2 in this race.
#4: Former DNC Chairman Tom Perez (D) (Previous: 5)
Perez has added Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement to that of the UFCW endorsement; The UFCW endorsement is still amusing because the socialists have accused Perez of being a union buster. That help addresses Perez’s problem at this point; that he’s been out of Maryland local politics for over ten years at this point, and the landscape of the Maryland Democratic Party has radically changed since then. While he did serve as one term as a Montgomery County Councilman as Maryland Secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, he has been focused on federal and national politics since 2009. But he was not at all helped by being a former DNC Chairman after Terry McAuliffe bombed his campaign and lost to Glenn Youngkin out in Virginia, something that the far left of the Democratic Party quickly pounced on. Perez told Maryland Matters that he has the network to compete and the union endorsement helps. It’s not the MSTA endorsement, but it will be interesting to see if other endorsements follow. Prior to serving as Chairman of the DNC, Perez was the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division and the Secretary of Labor under Barack Obama. Perez’s last attempt at statewide office, in 2006, crashed and burned after he was disqualified from running for Maryland Attorney General.
#3: Wes Moore (D) (Previous: 3)
Moore is an author, non-profit executive, and retired Army officer that is an occasional darling of the Baltimore-area media. And he’s running for Governor as a Democrat. Which is interesting:
Moore, of course, has no connection to the Democratic establishment, no base, and no real path to victory at the moment. But he also doesn’t appear to have the baggage that some other candidates do and has a national base that he can draw on, which may rocket him toward the front of a weak Democratic field. Added former Delegate Aruna Miller to his ticket as his running mate is interesting, both in the perspective of her willingness to challenge the Democratic establishment and in the fact that the Moore-Miller ticket is the rare Baltimore-Washington cross metropolitan ticket that seems so unusual these days. He’s also starting to line up some endorsements. Of course when he peddles nonsense to that national base in order to get campaign support and starts following the Ben Jealous plan, what good is it really?
#2: Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) (Previous: 2)
There’s nothing normal about Peter Franchot’s political trajectory. He was a radical left-wing Delegate turned budget conscience Democrat and now turning back into a radical left-wing Democrat in order to run for Governor. He fills no natural lane in this election; progressives distrust him, moderates distrust him. The Len Foxwell debacle hurts him in a number of ways, though less now that Foxwell has politically shanked his mentor and is siding with Gansler. He has a large bank account ($2,216,592.88 at the end of the 2020 cycle) and high name ID though, and that counts for something. He has a path to victory, but it’s much narrow than many would otherwise think. Uncertainty remains as to how his promotion of and relationship with a local gossip blogger will hurt him, something that is already causing fights in the Democratic intelligentsia (that relationship has seemed to have soured since Len Foxwell is no longer in Franchot’s employ, which is not a coincidence ). So far he’s ahead in the polls, but warning signs abound. The latest development is Franchot’s alleged involvement in the Takoma Junction Project; we’ll what shakes out from that. The disastrous rollout of his running mate was even more troubling for Team Franchot. Say what you will about Len Foxwell, but the Franchot political operation did not make these kind of mistakes on his watch.
#1: Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz (R) (Previous: 1)
Kelly Schulz is going to be the only credible Republican running for governor, and the Goucher Poll boosted her immensely. That poll showed that people want a candidate who is not super-Trumpy and will govern similarly to the way that Larry Hogan has governed. The only candidate in the race who checks that box is Secretary Schulz. Schulz has an intriguing profile for a statewide candidate; former Delegate, secretary of two cabinet Departments, and a resident of Frederick County, now solidly a swing district. She’s been increasing her statewide profile, keynoting the Red Maryland Leadership Conference in 2021. Many Republicans floated the idea of a “dream ticket” with Schulz running for Lt. Governor as Boyd Rutherford’s running mate, but with Rutherford out of the race and Glassman running for Comptroller, the field in the Republican primary has basically been cleared. Just as important; with Angela Alsobrooks out, it appears that Schulz will be the only major party candidate for governor who is a woman. Slow and steady often wins the race; just ask Larry Hogan about that, and the Schulz campaign is laying the groundwork for a long campaign in that model.
Dropping Out: Mike Rosenbaum (#9; withdrew from race)