It was the first day of early voting in Maryland – more than a week before the actual primary day and two weeks before he’d be declared the winner – but Wes Moore was already dancing.
In dark dress pants and a light purple polo shirt, he held a campaign flyer in one hand and snapped his fingers with the other, moving in sync with a handful of supporters that included Prince George’s County’s top elected official.
“Dancing with [County Executive] Angela Alsobrooks toward a brighter future for Maryland!” he wrote on social media with the video.
Two weeks later, Moore would have reason to dance – and especially in Prince George’s County.
Moore’s win in the Democratic gubernatorial primary ran right through the large suburb of Washington, D.C. and was aided by his home city of Baltimore and Baltimore County, according to a Sun analysis of unofficial election returns that were up to date as of July 28.
A first-time candidate known for a bestselling book and for running a large poverty-fighting nonprofit, Moore built a robust campaign that gave him solid support in most areas of the state, according to the results.
The same may be said of his new opponent, Dan Cox, a state lawmaker and lawyer from Frederick County who won his race against a Republican backed by the incumbent governor by consistently winning over grassroots conservatives in nearly every corner of the state, the results show.
Cox’s widespread win, along with that of Republican attorney general nominee Michael Peroutka, indicates the base of the Maryland Republican Party is fully supportive of former President Donald Trump – no matter where they live, said Todd Eberly, a political-science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
As for the Democrats, “the I-95 corridor is the key to the Democratic Party strength, and [Moore and Tom Perez] each laid claim to a different section of it,” Eberly said.
More than 2.2 million Maryland voters are registered Democrats, but two-thirds of them are packed into just four areas – Prince George’s, Montgomery and Baltimore counties and Baltimore City.
Add in Anne Arundel and Howard counties, and you’re looking at four out of every five Democrats in the state.
And where it mattered most, Moore dominated.
His strongest showing was in Prince George’s County, the majority-Black county that makes up the largest pool of Democratic voters in the state.
Representing 21% of all votes cast in the primary – the same amount of the state’s registered Democrats that live there – it was the largest prize in the race, and Moore won it handily with 47% of the vote. Perez won 21% of the county, Comptroller Peter Franchot won 17% and another 9% went to Rushern Baker, the county’s former executive who stopped campaigning in early June.
County leaders had begun coalescing around Moore even while Baker was still in the race. County Executive Alsobrooks and state’s attorney Aisha Braveboy endorsed Moore in March, along with U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, whose district includes parts of the county, in April.
After Baker’s exit, Moore added 14 others, including most of the county council and state senators, to what he called an “unparalleled coalition.”
“[Prince George’s County voters] should be referred to as a game changer,” Alsobrooks said at the Baltimore event when Moore declared victory.
At the same time, Moore’s victory in Prince George’s was somewhat offset by Perez’s similar winning margin in Montgomery County, where he lives along with the second-largest pot of Democratic voters.
Montgomery County went 48% to Perez, 21% to Moore and 12% to Franchot – a significant showing for Perez considering several other candidates also live there, including Franchot and former U.S. Education Secretary John King.
Moore won 58,500 of 125,000 votes in Prince George’s, but Perez won 54,000 of 113,000 votes in Montgomery.
That made Moore’s performance in Baltimore City and county that much more important.
“There’s been a lot of talk in the last couple days about the Baltimore City area sort of reasserting itself, and that, in a lot of respects, is because PG and Montgomery County went in opposite directions,” Eberly said. “It allowed the Baltimore region to sort of be kingmaker.”
In Baltimore County, which made up 15% of the statewide vote, Moore won 35% to Franchot’s 28% and Perez’s 25%. In the city, which made up another 13% of all votes, Moore did even better, winning 38% to Perez’s 27% and Franchot’s 25%.
The city and surrounding region had become a top target for all the candidates.
Moore was the only Baltimore resident in the race, but every candidate had taken strides to convince voters they would spend their time in the governor’s office addressing Baltimore’s most pressing crime, transportation, housing and economic needs.
And even though some candidates had claimed Moore embellished his childhood ties to the city, he walked away with one of his clearest victories there. After Prince George’s County and the 40% plurality he won in Charles County, the city was his next biggest win.
“It’s only appropriate that we are here in our Baltimore field office … because that’s where this campaign was won,” Moore said in his victory speech July 23. “In the field. On the ground. Door to door. Block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood … That’s how elections are won.”
Hours before the race was ultimately called for Moore, Perez’s campaign was projecting confidence.
It would take days before anything would be settled, they said, pointing toward the outstanding mail-in ballots from Montgomery County, where Perez was winning by wide margins.
But those margins turned out to be the only real bright spot on the map for the former cabinet official and Democratic National Committee chairman.
The only other counties where Perez performed above his statewide average were Howard and Frederick, which made up about 6% and 3% of the total vote, respectively. Perez and Moore virtually tied in Howard at 32%, but Moore had slightly more votes.
Perez appears likely to win a plurality of four counties – Montgomery, Frederick, Calvert and Saint Mary’s.
Meanwhile, Franchot’s pitch as a moderate Democrat able to work with Republicans also appeared to break through. He performed the best in more conservative Western Maryland and Eastern Shore than anywhere else.
The latest returns showed him winning half of all counties – but a half that made up only 8.6% of the total Democratic vote.
One of his best showings, for instance, was the 40% plurality he won in Caroline County. Democratic turnout there matched the statewide average, but with fewer voters there – about 1,500 votes cast – it was just a quarter of one percent of all Democrats who cast ballots.
On a packed 10-candidate ballot, where 84% of all the votes went to three candidates, none of the other seven candidates showed signs of momentum anywhere.
None of them cracked double-digits in any county, and there were only a few instances in which anyone exceeded 5% of the vote in a county.
On the other side of the aisle, Maryland Republicans are fewer in number and more evenly spread out around the state.
And Cox did well pretty much across the board.
With only two major candidates on the ballot, Cox won more than half the vote in 18 counties and a plurality in two more, leaving Schulz with wins in just Baltimore City and Howard and Kent counties.
Maryland Policy & Politics
Keep up to date with Maryland politics, elections and important decisions made by federal, state and local government officials.
The six largest counties for Republicans – Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Harford, Carroll, Montgomery and Frederick – represented more than half of all GOP votes in the primary, and all went to Cox.
Cox’s strongest numbers, however, came in the more conservative wings of the state, winning more than 62% of the vote in Garrett and Allegany counties in the far west and in Worcester, Wicomico, Dorchester and Caroline in the far southeast.
His total reached a whopping 80% in Somerset County, where the roughly 2,000 votes cast made up less than 1% of the overall vote total. Like the Democrats, those corners of the state make up the smallest share of the party’s voters.
Eberly said just because Cox won over the minority of Maryland residents who vote in Republican primaries doesn’t mean he’ll be on track to win over the larger set of voters in the general election, when any GOP candidate needs to win over moderates and some Democrats to win statewide.
“The fact that he ran strong in Baltimore County shouldn’t be an indication he will do well there in the general election,” Eberly said.
Cox, for his part, has indicated his messaging that made him so successful in the primary isn’t going to change.
“We ran a race against the establishment of Maryland. We ran a positive race to do our best to talk about the issues. And it won and it’s going to win again in November,” he said as he declared victory on primary night.