From WTOP’s Election Desk: Counting continues in Md.; Congress takes up the ‘R’ word

Welcome back to WTOP’s weekly election update! WTOP’s team of reporters will keep you informed on the latest through November on primary and election races in the District, Maryland, Virginia and nationwide.

Local elections | Nick Iannelli

Voters in the D.C. area are digging political newcomers

It looks like the D.C. region is trending toward candidates for governor with no political experience (not to say it’s a bad thing).

The Democratic nominee in Maryland’s race for governor, Wes Moore, is not a politician. He’s a bestselling author and former chief of a large nonprofit organization focused on poverty.

Moore is heavily favored to win in November in deep blue Maryland, as he faces Republican Del. Dan Cox.

If Moore is elected, it would be similar to Virginia’s governor’s race from last year, when voters elected Republican Glenn Youngkin, a former private equity executive who had no prior political experience.

Hogan attacks GOP nominee Cox

Not only is Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan not supporting Cox; he now seems to be actively campaigning against him.

In a CNN interview, Hogan said he “doesn’t think there’s any chance” Cox can win, adding that Cox is “not a serious candidate” and is “not qualified to be governor.”

Cox and his running mate, Gordana Schifanelli, have cast their victory as a win for returning Maryland’s Republican Party to more conservative principles than Hogan espoused.

Cox, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, defeated Hogan-endorsed candidate Kelly Schulz in the Republican primary.

Hogan allies insist his time will come

After Hogan’s choice to succeed him flopped in the primary, the governor’s political allies insisted that Hogan’s brand of moderation will ultimately prevail over the Trump-led right wing.

“At the end of the day, the governor will be right and Trump and his ego will be wrong,” longtime Hogan strategist Doug Mayer told The Baltimore Sun. “It’s the long game.”

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was among those rallying to Hogan’s defense after Schulz’s loss to Cox too.

“I think Larry stuck his neck out for Kelly because he believes in her and she’s done a good job for him and the government. But the responsibility of winning or losing an election is on the candidate,” Christie told The Sun.

Christie said Hogan possesses a pragmatic style and authenticity that makes him an “appealing” presidential candidate in any era. Hogan has not said yet whether he will run for president in 2024, but he is widely expected to do so after he leaves office next January.

Maryland vote counting is still happening

The primary election was July 19, but Maryland election boards are still processing thousands of mail-in and provisional ballots.

The results of many area races depend on those lingering votes.

It’s not unusual for races to take weeks after an election to call, acting Montgomery County Elections Director Alysoun McLaughlin said in an interview with The Washington Post. In 2018, for example, it took nearly two weeks for a result to be reached in the Democratic primary for Montgomery County executive.

The long waits this year mainly stem from a Maryland law that prohibits election officials from processing mail-in ballots until two days after the polls close. Voting by mail has become much more popular during the pandemic and, as a result, has become more impactful during the vote counting process in Maryland.

Youngkin’s tax cuts get high marks

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has a 49% approval rating six months into his time in office, according to a new Wilder School Commonwealth poll that found support for his tax relief efforts.

“Tax cuts are likely to be a key part of Youngkin’s stump speech as he extends his out-of-state speaking tour and contemplates a potential presidential run in 2024,” according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The poll found that 72% of respondents backed Youngkin’s effort to eliminate the 1.5% state portion of the sales tax on groceries, which the governor estimates will save a family of four $209 a year.

The poll found that 58% of respondents supported Youngkin’s unsuccessful effort to suspend the state gas tax for three months.

Youngkin said the state’s revenue surplus meant Virginia could afford to suspend the tax and give Virginians a break from high gas prices. Democratic leaders said suspending the tax would hurt state transportation funding and that there was no guarantee the savings would be passed on to consumers.

From Capitol Hill | Mitchell Miller

The politics of the ‘R’ word

Talk of whether the U.S. is about to enter a recession — or already has — has dominated political discussions in Washington this week.

The head of the Senate Republican Conference took only minutes to issue a statement sharply critical of Democrats on Thursday, after the government announced gross domestic product shrank by 0.9% in the second quarter.

“Joe Biden’s recession is here,” said U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. “The American people are saying it even if the White House won’t.”

The first quarter also had a decline, and two straight quarterly declines in GDP is commonly defined as a recession, though the federal government has not formally declared the country has entered one.

“That is not what we are seeing now,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Thursday, noting the country is not experiencing mass layoffs or a “broad-based weakening of our economy.”

But Republicans also repeatedly point to inflation, which is at a 41-year high.

Democrats have been on their heels, but are hoping a surprising political deal on economic legislation reached this week between U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will give them a boost.

The legislation would address energy policy and the climate, and reduce prescription drug prices.

Democrats are calling it “The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022,” though that won’t stop Republicans from hammering it as another tax-and-spend measure.

Senate Democrats would like to get a legislative victory next week by passing the bill through budget reconciliation before the August recess, giving them something they can tout ahead of the midterm elections.

They will need all 50 Democrats to vote for the measure, something that became more complicated when Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., announced Thursday that he’s tested positive for COVID-19.

Democrats boost Trump candidate

Tuesday’s Republican congressional primary in western Michigan is getting a lot attention because Democrats have injected TV money into the race.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has paid $425,000 to run an ad designed to help Trump-backed Republican John Gibbs get the nomination over Rep. Peter Meijer, one of 10 GOP House lawmakers who voted for Donald Trump’s impeachment after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Democrats running the ad believe Gibbs, who has called Joe Biden’s victory over Trump “simply mathematically impossible,” would be easier for Democrat Hillary Scholten to defeat in the November general election than Meijer.

Meijer has been sharply critical of the effort, and some congressional Democrats don’t like the risky tactic either, which has been employed in other races.

The district Meijer represents has traditionally been conservative and was once the home of former president and Michigan congressman Gerald Ford.

But the district was recently redrawn and is now more favorable to Democrats, who see it as one of the few House seats nationwide they have a chance to flip.

Trump vs. Pence

It may have taken a chanting mob to call for him to be hanged during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and the fact that Trump didn’t lift a finger to help him, and in fact blamed him for not intervening in the congressional certification of the 2020 election, but former Vice President Mike Pence is now breaking away from his former boss.

Sort of.

During a speech this week in D.C. to the Young America’s Foundation, Pence pledged that he will continue to support the policies carried out by the Trump administration.

But as he tests the political waters for a possible presidential run in 2024, he indicated he has no desire to carry on with Trump’s baseless grievances about the 2020 election.

“Now, some people may choose to focus on the past,” Pence said, without mentioning Trump by name. “But elections are about the future.”

By contrast, Trump utilized his speech in D.C. the same day to, among other things, again claim that he won the election over Joe Biden.

“It was a catastrophe, that election,” he said. “A disgrace to our country.”

The former president railed against crime and criticized the Biden administration’s border policies, and hinted at his plans to run again for the White House in 2024.

“They really want to damage me so I can no longer go back to work for you,” Trump said of Democrats. ”And I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Few think former President Donald Trump won’t run in 2024, but a new poll suggests if he didn’t join the race, the GOP front-runners would be Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Pence.

Worth your time

From Nick Iannelli

From Mitchell Miller

Mitchell Miller

Mitchell Miller has worked at WTOP since 1996, as a producer, editor, reporter and Senior News Director. After working "behind the scenes," coordinating coverage and reporter coverage for years, Mitchell moved back to his first love -- reporting. He is now WTOP's Capitol Hill reporter.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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