Wes Moore declared victory in Maryland's Democratic primary in remarks Saturday, a day after NBC News projected him to have won the race. Read that story here.
Wes Moore is the winner of Maryland’s Democratic primary for governor, NBC News projects.
Moore, an author who held a virtual fundraiser with Oprah Winfrey, would become Maryland’s first Black governor if elected in November. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state 2-1, but Republicans have won three of the past five elections.
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A spokesman for Moore's campaign said Friday morning, "We’re obviously encouraged by the call, but have not yet declared victory."
Competitor Tom Perez, who was coming in second, called for remaining mail-in votes to be counted.
“Put simply, it’s too early to call this race. Yesterday was the first day of counting for the 212,962 recorded and received vote-by-mail ballots and it was a huge day for Tom Perez,” he and his campaign managers said in part in a statement Friday afternoon. “[…] Our campaign will continue to respect the dedicated work of election staff across the state as the counting process continues.”
Political news from the U.S. Capitol, White House and around Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia
Competitor Peter Franchot conceded in a statement issued Friday afternoon.
“I congratulate Wes Moore and Aruna Miller for running a successful campaign and becoming the Democratic nominees for governor and lieutenant governor. With voting rights, Roe v. Wade, health care, common sense gun control, climate change and economic stability becoming the key issues of this moment, it is vital that Marylanders come together to elect a Democrat to be the next governor,” he said.
Moore gave what sounded like a victory speech Tuesday night but stopped short of claiming a win.
“We're excited for all those votes to be counted, because when those votes are counted, we feel very good about where we are going to be,” he said.
View Maryland Primary Results Here
Moore is projected to have won a competitive three-way race with Perez, a former U.S. labor secretary who previously served as chair of the Democratic National Committee, and Franchot, the state comptroller with wide margins of victory for four terms.
Moore had maintained a lead since late Tuesday, with Perez in second place. The gap closed after mail-in ballots were counted.
Moore, 43, is a Baltimore resident and father of two who was born in Takoma Park and grew up in Maryland and New York City, according to his campaign website. His priority issues include the economy, education, civil rights, climate and public safety, the site says.
Moore is a former Army combat veteran who served in Afghanistan and the former CEO of a national anti-poverty group.
He has said recent Supreme Court rulings have illustrated how “massively important” it is for Democrats to regain the governor's office.
“Governors matter in this moment, now more than ever before, because governors are really a last line of defense that many constituents are going to have against just barbaric rulings that we’re seeing from this Supreme Court," Moore told The Associated Press.
The election results are expected to be certified on July 29. If the counting of mail-in ballots continues, results may not be certified until August.
Democrat Wes Moore to Face Republican Dan Cox for Maryland Governor's Seat
Far-right Republican Dan Cox's win in the party's primary drew national attention. Cox, 47, laid out his vision for the state in an interview with News4 earlier this week and said he would fight COVID-19 restrictions and advance the policies of former President Donald Trump if he wins the general election in November.
“The policies that President Trump has advanced are the police we bring to Maryland, because the Biden policies are hurting us,” Cox told News4.
“On the Republican side, oh my God, it's extraordinary,” University of Maryland-Baltimore County professor and "I Hate Politics" podcast host Sunil Dasgupta said.
While Cox, who was endorsed by Trump, is the projected Republican nominee, Kelly Shultz, who was endorsed by Gov. Larry Hogan, did not immediately concede.
“That she lost shows that, on the Republican side, the right-wing section of the party is energized, and the moderates are either staying at home or gonna vote Democratic,” Dasgupta said.
The National Democratic Party poured money into Cox's campaign, betting a Democrat could beat a far-right Republican in what's historically been a moderate state.
“The fall campaigns are going to be a referendum on, you guessed it, Trump,” Dasgupta said.
Democrats once held the governor's mansion for more than three straight decades. When Republican Robert Ehrlich won in 2002, he was the first in his party to be governor in 36 years — since Spiro Agnew in 1966.
The primary occurred less than a month after a new Maryland law approved by the Democratic-controlled legislature took effect to expand abortion access. It was passed in anticipation of the Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade, which the justices did in June.
Less than a week later, Hogan directed the Maryland State Police to suspend the state’s “good and substantial reason” standard for permits to carry handguns after the Supreme Court struck down a similar New York law.
The Supreme Court also limited the reach of the nation’s main air pollution law that’s used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants — a blow to environmentally conscious Maryland, home to the Chesapeake Bay, the nation's largest estuary.
“We've got to keep Republicans away from the Statehouse,” said Doug McLaine, 78, who voted early in Annapolis for Moore and expressed concern about the gun ruling as the nation confronts a wave of mass shootings.
A poll last month by the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher, The Baltimore Banner and WYPR had found no clear front-runner among the Democrats, with current Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot at 16%, and Moore and former Labor Secrtary Tom Perez each at 14%.
The mail-in ballot count began at 10 a.m. Thursday, and for some tight races, it was expected to take days or weeks for results.
In 2020, Larry Hogan allowed mail-in ballot counting to begin before the election. He vetoed a bill that would have done the same for this primary.
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Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story.