From WTOP’s Election Desk: In-person voting begins in Md.; Trump times his leap

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

Local elections | Nick Iannelli

Early voting begins in Maryland

Activity is picking up ahead of Maryland’s July 19 primary: Early in-person voting started on Thursday.

Residents across the state have a chance to weigh in on several races, including the contest to succeed Gov. Larry Hogan, who is term-limited.

Maryland’s eight congressional districts are on the primary ballot, as well as the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who is running for reelection.

Various local elections are also being held, including a race for Montgomery County executive.

A full list of early voting centers is available on the Maryland State Board of Elections site.

Duplicate ballots sent to hundreds of voters

Did you get two ballots in the mail?

The Maryland State Board of Elections says duplicate ballots were mailed in error to nearly 800 Montgomery County voters for the upcoming primary, and to another 142 voters in 11 other counties across the state.

The board is asking voters who received two ballots to destroy one of them.

The acting director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections told WTOP there are safeguards to prevent people from voting twice.

All duplicate ballots are identical with the same tracking numbers, so if a voter sent both ballots in, one would be automatically rejected by the system.

Bethesda Beat first reported the story.

Gun control takes center stage in Maryland politics

Hogan’s decision to lift restrictions on carrying concealed weapons in the wake of a Supreme Court opinion is creating waves in Maryland’s race for governor.

Hogan directed the Maryland State Police, which issues gun licenses in the state, to suspend what’s known as the “good and substantial reason” standard for carrying concealed weapons. It essentially means that gun owners no longer have to offer a justification for carrying concealed firearms.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kelly Schulz called the governor’s decision “the right call.”

Former Attorney General Doug Gansler, who is running for governor on the Democratic side, said Hogan should have proposed ways to comply with the Supreme Court edict overturning a New York State law while also adding protections for Marylanders.

The state police stress that applicants still need to pass a full background check and a check that they aren’t barred by law from owning guns, as well as provide fingerprints.

McDuffie fights to stay in DC politics

Nearly two months after he suspended his campaign for D.C. attorney general, D.C. Council Member Kenyan McDuffie is switching his Democratic Party affiliation to run as an independent candidate for an at-large seat on the council.

His current term as Ward 5 council member ends in January.

Last year, McDuffie opted not to run for reelection and instead launched a campaign for attorney general. His effort was derailed after one of his rivals successfully challenged his eligibility to run for the position.

Youngkin expands national presence

It’s seeming more and more likely that Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin will run for president in 2024.

Youngkin is preparing to travel around the country to stump for Republican candidates on midterm election ballots, and he raised $2.64 million into his political action committee, Spirit of Virginia, from Jan. 1 through June 30.

As reported by the Washington Examiner, “The governor’s haul more than doubled what his three immediate predecessors raised during their first six months in office and reveals a chief executive not content to return to private life after concluding the single four-year term afforded to him under Virginia’s constitution.”

From Capitol Hill | Mitchell Miller

When will Trump jump into the pool?

It’s just a matter of when — not if — former President Donald Trump will announce another run for the White House. But the timing of that announcement could have an impact not just on the race for the GOP presidential nomination, but potentially on the midterms as well.

There’s growing speculation that Trump could make his announcement before the November midterms — and that makes some Republicans nervous.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wants candidates to focus on inflation and rising gas prices, as Republicans try to regain control of the U.S. Senate. GOP strategists say that a summer announcement by Trump could give Democrats more focus for November, and potentially drive up their turnout, even with the next presidential race two years away.

Trump is reportedly concerned about polls showing that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is gaining traction with Republicans as a potential presidential nominee in 2024. The former president also wants to counter the negative information about him and his administration that’s been coming out of the Jan. 6 committee hearings.

There are signs that at least some in the Republican Party is tiring of his continuing harangues about the 2020 election and lies about election fraud.

Trump hasn’t “frozen the field” of potential GOP rivals by holding out his announcement. Several Republicans, along with DeSantis, are positioning themselves for a possible run for the White House.

Democrats not energized by Biden

It may be due to the slower summer news cycle, but a growing number of reports reflect Democrats’ dissatisfaction with President Joe Biden.

Activists are upset with what they say is a lack of an aggressive strategy on abortion rights in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. In response to pressure from Democrats, sources say Biden plans to sign an executive order Friday to protect access to abortion.

And following the deadly attack on July 4 in Highland Park, Illinois, some Democrats have indicated they’re disappointed that the president hasn’t pushed for more expansive gun control efforts.

The president’s approval rating remains low, and that could affect Democrats’ turnout for the midterm congressional elections.

A new Monmouth Poll has his approval rate at 36% — the lowest of his presidency to date.

As CNN’s Chris Cillizza notes, when a president’s approval rating is below 50%, the average loss of U.S. House seats in a midterm is 37 seats. Republicans only need a net gain of five seats to regain control.

Coast-to-coast politicking

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom decided to drop $100,000 on an ad to tweak DeSantis in his home state.

Newsom is loathed by Republicans and obviously doesn’t think he’s going to convert any GOP voters. (He easily defeated a recall effort led by GOP opponents during the pandemic, getting 68% of the vote.)

Instead, he hopes the ad will energize Democrats and raise money. In the ad, he charges that Republican leaders in Florida have put freedom under attack — pointing to book bans, voting restrictions and the “criminalizing” of women and doctors.

The ad aired on the Fourth of July on Fox News in Florida.

Unlike DeSantis, Newsom insists he has no interest in running for president in 2024.

GOP candidate for governor pleads not guilty to Jan. 6 charges

Michigan Republican candidate for governor Ryan Kelley took part in a televised debate among GOP candidates Wednesday night, then appeared on video the next day for a virtual D.C. hearing related to Jan. 6.

Kelley pleaded not guilty to four misdemeanor charges related to the riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Federal court records describe him as an active participant in the events on Jan. 6. Charges against him include disruptive conduct, willfully injuring or committing depredation against property, and entering a restricted building.

When he was asked for his view of Jan. 6 during the debate, he defended being in Washington. “We were there protesting the government because we don’t like the results of the 2020 election, the process of how it happened,” he said. “And we have that First Amendment right.”

As documented by Politico, more than 850 people have been charged in connection with the breach of the Capitol and the insurrection. At least 325 have pleaded guilty.

Worth your time

From Nick Iannelli

From Mitchell Miller

Dates to know

  • July 13: The deadline to request a mail-in ballot in Maryland.
  • July 19: Primary day in Maryland.

Nick Iannelli

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

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.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up