Democrat Wes Moore was elected Maryland governor Tuesday, besting Republican Dan Cox and becoming the first Black person elected governor of the state amid a Democrat sweep of statewide races.
The Associated Press called the race for Moore shortly after polls closed at 8 p.m.
Moore’s victory was followed by wins for Democrat Anthony Brown for attorney general — the first Black person elected to that position in Maryland — and Democrat Brooke Lierman in the comptroller’s race. Lierman is the first woman elected to that position.
Aruna Miller also made Maryland history by becoming the first immigrant to win the lieutenant governor’s office, and is the first Asian American elected statewide in Maryland.
Voters also approved a constitutional amendment to legalize recreational marijuana, according to the AP.
Governor’s race: Moore defeats Cox
Moore is a bestselling author, former nonprofit CEO and combat veteran who pledged during the campaign to create greater opportunity for Maryland residents, strengthen education and boost economic growth.
Endorsed by Oprah Winfrey during the Democratic primary, Moore also rallied with President Joe Biden at Bowie State University on the eve of the election.
Moore, who has never held elected office, is the first Black person elected governor and only the third Black governor elected in the U.S.
Moore’s opponent Cox, a constitutional lawyer and first-term state delegate, staked out far-right conservative positions, against railing against “critical race theory” and “gender identity indoctrination” in schools and against the COVID-19 lockdown measures.
Analysts said he did little during the campaign to moderate his image to appeal to Maryland’s deep-blue electorate.
Race call within minutes of poll closing
AP called the race within mere minutes of the polls closing at 8 p.m. and before the Maryland State Board of Elections had reported any vote totals.
Cheers and dancing erupted at the Moore campaign election night watch party in Baltimore, where Moore addressed supporters later Tuesday.
Moore thanked supporters for believing “our state could be bolder, and our state could go faster.”
The governor-elect pledged to protect abortion rights, provide pre-kindergarten for every child in need and to work with police and communities to ensure public safety, saying “In our Maryland, you will feel safe in your own neighborhoods — and safe in your own skin.”
“Our administration will fight to give every single Marylander the chance to succeed,” Moore said near the end of his victory speech. “This is our time.”
As of Wednesday morning, with all nearly all precincts across the state reporting results but still thousands of mail-in ballots to count, unofficial results showed Moore leading Cox, 59.6% to 37%.
Cox statement: Recognizes Moore win, calls outcome ‘complete surprise’
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Cox, said he had called Moore “to honor and recognize him on his being declared the winner in this historic election … and to wish him well in his constitutional service.”
In the statement, Cox called his campaign a “substantial and serious movement for freedom and the constitutional order,” and said, “While we always felt it might be a close race, the outcome was a complete surprise.”
Cox’s statement goes on to say that he doesn’t understand why Republican voter turnout wasn’t higher.
The statement thanked Trump for his endorsement and blasted Hogan for not supporting him. “Governor Hogan’s disrespect of the people of Maryland in his own party will go down in history as disqualifying him from any future office as a Republican.”
Hogan is reported to be eyeing a run for the Republican nomination for president in 2024.
My statement today on my call to Gov-elect Wes Moore. Please join me in praying for him and his family and that our state will be free. pic.twitter.com/mv5CJG96AJ
— Dan Cox 🇺🇸 🦅- Delegate & Candidate for Governor (@DanCoxEsq) November 9, 2022
Cox did not concede the race Tuesday night.
Taking the stage at his election night party in Annapolis shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday, Cox told supporters “it’s not looking good,” but said it was still “very, very very possible” he could win, pointing to “amazing numbers” on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland’s Garrett County.
It had remained an open question whether Cox will accept the results of an election.
During the sole debate, Cox stopped short of saying he would definitely accept the results of the election, likening it to saying a surgery went well before it had taken place.
Cox had touted his endorsement from former President Donald Trump, but popular outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan, who won twice at the polls, refused to endorse Cox and called him a “QAnon whackjob” over Cox’s support for false claims of 2020 election fraud.
Hogan tweeted at about 8:40 p.m. Tuesday that he had spoken to Moore and congratulated him on his victory, pledging a “smooth and orderly transition.”
A short while ago, I spoke to Wes Moore and congratulated him on being elected as Maryland’s next governor. There is no higher calling than public service, and no greater honor than to serve the people of this great state.
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) November 9, 2022
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Eleven of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions — including most of those in the D.C. area — have already tabulated at least some of the mail-in ballots and will report partial results Tuesday night.
Counting of mail-in ballots will continue starting Thursday, and as long as they were postmarked by Tuesday, ballots sent through the mail will be accepted until Nov. 18.
In the race for attorney general, Democrat Anthony Brown, a three-term representative who served as Maryland’s lieutenant governor under Martin O’Malley, was the projected winner over Republican Michael Peroutka, according to the AP.
Brown, who lost his bid for governor in 2014 to Hogan, is the first Black person to be elected Maryland’s chief law enforcement officer.
Before the race had even been called, Brown declared victory during a speech in Baltimore Tuesday alongside Moore and the other statewide Democratic candidates.
“We spent 12 months meeting, Zooming, talking with Marylanders about our values and goals — to preserve our democracy, to protect and defend our rights, to embrace our diversity, and to create equitable opportunities for all Marylanders,” Brown, who becomes the first Black attorney general, told supporters. “And this evening. I accept the responsibility and the privilege to be your next attorney general.”
Peroutka, a former Anne Arundel County Council member, had drawn criticism for his former ties to a right-wing organization called the League of the South and for hosting 9/11 conspiracy radio shows.
The state’s current attorney general, Brian Frosh, who serves as attorney general, is retiring after two terms.
In the race for comptroller, Democrat Brooke Lierman was the projected winner over Republican Barry Glassman.
Lierman, a state delegate, represents a Baltimore City district in the General Assembly. Glassman is the two-term county executive for Harford County.
Lierman declared victory Tuesday before the race call.
“Thank you to the people who told me that this is the first time they were so excited to get involved in a comptroller’s race,” Lierman said. “Thank you to the grandmas, to the mothers, to the daughters, who said it’s time for a woman to run the money in Maryland!”
Maryland’s comptroller acts as the state’s tax collector and is one vote on the powerful three-person Board of Public Works, which oversees state spending.
The two candidates had sparred in debates over the role of the comptroller, with Lierman pledging to take an expansive role that includes tackling climate, gun violence, workers’ rights and economic fairness. Glassman, a moderate Republican, has said he sees the role as a nonpartisan chief financial officer.
The state’s current comptroller, Peter Franchot, who has served in his position for 15 years, is stepping down. He made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for governor earlier this year.
Maryland voters also approved a constitutional amendment — Question 4 — to legalize possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana by adults 21 and older, according to a projection from the AP.
Maryland is one of five states with recreational marijuana on the ballot this year. D.C. and Virginia have already legalized recreational use of marijuana.
While more technical in nature, voters approved the other four statewide ballot measures. Under Question 1, voters approved renaming Maryland’s highest court — known as the Court of Appeals — as the Maryland Supreme Court, according to The Associated Press. The second-highest court — the Court of Special Appeals — would also be renamed to the Maryland Appellate Court.
Officials said the measure would reduce confusion and put Maryland in line with how other state supreme courts are named. Maryland is one of only two states (along with New York) that doesn’t call its highest court the Supreme Court.
Voters approved Question 4, which adds stricter residency requirements for Maryland state senators and delegates, requiring them to establish residency in the district they represent and make it their primary place of abode.
The Associated Press projected that voters approved Question 3, allowing Maryland lawmakers to limit jury trials in civil cases under $25,000.
Lastly, voters are projected to approve Question 5, which deals with changes to Howard County’s orphans court, Maryland’s version of probate courts.
WTOP’s Kate Ryan and Sarah Jacobs and The Associated Press contributed to this report.