From WTOP’s Election Desk: Plenty of uncertainty in Maryland governor’s race

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.

Virginia and Maryland | Nick Iannelli

Maryland’s race for governor looks like a tossup

The primaries in Maryland are less than three weeks away, and a new Goucher poll shows just how close the race for governor is.

On the Democratic side, the poll has Comptroller Peter Franchot with 16% support, ahead of author Wes Moore and former DNC Chairman Tom Perez, who each have 14%.

Doug Gansler, the former Maryland attorney general, got 5%; John King, former U.S. secretary for education, got 4%, while Jon Baron, a former nonprofit executive, and Ashwani Jain, a former appointee in the Obama White House, each had 2%.

But the real story is that 35% of Democratic voters are undecided, according to the poll, and 63% of Democratic voters who selected a candidate said they “could change their mind.”

On the Republican side, the poll has Del. Dan Cox ahead of former Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, 25% to 22%. Again, undecided voters will play a major role — 44% of Republican voters said they didn’t know which candidate they would ultimately support.

Cox was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, while Schulz has the backing of Gov. Larry Hogan.

Maryland’s primaries are set for July 19, with early in-person voting starting July 7.

Read Kate Ryan’s interviews with all the candidates for governor

Abortion becomes political lightning rod in Virginia

Yesli Vega, the Republican nominee for the competitive U.S. House race in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, has come under fire after Axios posted audio showing Vega downplaying the possibility of becoming pregnant as a result of rape.

When asked about her support for new state-level restrictions in abortion, Vega said “The left will say, ‘Well what about in cases of rape or incest?’ I’m a law enforcement officer. I became a police officer in 2011. I’ve worked one case where as a result of a rape, the young woman became pregnant.”

Vega was then asked, “I’ve actually heard that it’s harder for a woman to get pregnant if she’s been raped. Have you heard that?”

Vega responded: “Well, maybe because there’s so much going on in the body. I don’t know. I haven’t, you know, seen any studies. But if I’m processing what you’re saying, it wouldn’t surprise me.”

Vega will face Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger in November.

In a statement, Spanberger called Vega’s comments “extreme and ignorant.”

More hints that Youngkin may run for president

We’ve learned that Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin flew to New York last week to meet privately with GOP megadonors in Manhattan.

It comes as Youngkin continues to drop hints that he may run for president in 2024.

Next week, the governor will headline his first out-of-state political event since taking office, with an appearance in Nebraska.

“He also has begun speaking more often about the needs of ‘Americans,’ not just ‘Virginians,’ and has subtly changed how he answers questions about whether he will seek the White House,” according to The Washington Post.

For example, Youngkin used to respond that he is solely focused on his new job in Virginia, but recently started saying that he is “humbled” that so many people “request” that he run.

When asked in a Fox News interview about the presidential buzz, Youngkin responded by saying “We’ll see what comes next.”

Photo of the Week

CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE: Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer administers the Judicial Oath to Ketanji Brown Jackson as her husband Patrick Jackson holds the Bible at the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday, June 30, 2022. (Supreme Court via AP)

From Capitol Hill | Mitchell Miller

Will abortion rights alter the midterms?

A week after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the decision continues to send shock waves across the political landscape.

President Biden renewed his criticism of the high court’s ruling on Thursday and urged the U.S. Senate to carve out an exception to the 60-vote filibuster for abortion rights.

That won’t happen, since not all 50 Democrats support the idea. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., remains opposed to changing the filibuster, and he voted earlier this year against a bill that would have codified Roe v. Wade into law.

But some early polling in the wake of the Supreme Court decision is encouraging for Democrats, who hope the issue will energize party members and get more of them to the polls for the midterm elections.

One poll finds that 78% of Democrats said the court’s decision makes them more likely to vote this fall, compared with 54% for Republicans.

Also, 51% said they would definitely vote for a candidate who supports a federal law that would restore the right to an abortion.

Democrats are already airing campaign ads touting their support for abortion rights — Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., who’s expected to have a tough path to reelection, released an ad this week that’s airing even though her Republican opponent won’t be chosen until a Sept. 13 primary.

Election deniers are denied victory

Election deniers have popped up in races across the country. They follow Trump’s script and lies, in an effort to harness his political popularity in Republican primaries.

The Washington Post recently reported that more than 100 candidates for statewide office or Congress who have repeated Trump’s baseless voting fraud claims had been chosen by voters through the end of May.

But voters in Colorado this week rejected a pair of deniers.

In the U.S. Senate race for the Republican nomination, voters chose Joe O’Dea, who has said he accepts the results of the 2020 presidential election. He defeated Ron Hanks, a state representative who echoed Trump’s lies and who featured an early campaign announcement showing him firing a gun at a photocopier that was labeled as a Dominion voting machine.

Dominion Voting Systems was the focus of a wide range of bizarre conspiracy theories, including that its machines had somehow been manipulated to change votes from Trump to Joe Biden.

In the GOP race for secretary of state, Mesa County Clerk and election denier Tina Peters lost her race after she was indicted on charges of tampering with election equipment.

Former Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson won the race.

Peters got into legal trouble after allegations she allowed an unauthorized person to attend the installation of Dominion software equipment to update the county’s voting system.

Passwords to the equipment were then publicly disclosed and used to access the equipment. The county ultimately had to replace its voting machines.

Trump effect in the Land of Lincoln

Trump’s endorsements continue to have mixed results, but a freshman congresswoman from Illinois who he supported defeated a longtime GOP lawmaker.

Rep. Mary Miller easily won her race against fellow Republican Rodney Davis, who had served in the U.S. House for nearly a decade, in a race for a new congressional district created by redistricting.

Davis failed to get Trump’s support in part because he backed an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Miller, who on Jan. 6, 2021, got in political hot water for praising Adolf Hitler’s youth engagement strategy, was the focus of another controversy last weekend.

Appearing at a rally with Trump on June 25, she praised the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, saying it was a “historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court.”

A spokesperson said Miller stumbled while trying to say “right to life” and criticized “fake news vultures” in a statement to CBS News.

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.

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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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