Both of Maryland’s major party nominees to replace Republican Gov. Larry Hogan this year have been clear: They are starkly different candidates for voters to put their faith in for the next four years.
And voters can expect to soon start hearing more directly from Democrat Wes Moore and Republican Dan Cox and their running mates about their divergence of views. The candidates will be spending what they’ve raised — and trying to rapidly raise more — via ads and at public appearances from parades to picnics to a televised debate as the post-Labor Day to Election Day sprint begins.
Mail-in ballots — which voters can request until Nov. 1 — will start hitting voters’ mailboxes in about a month. A week of in-person early voting begins Oct. 27, and Election Day is a mere nine weeks off, on Nov. 8.
Here are some of the biggest gaps now between Moore and Cox on issues expected to be at play in next year’s General Assembly session and around the state in the years to come.
Gun control — the subject of a major Supreme Court decision this summer — is an area where Moore and Cox drastically disagree.
After the court struck down a century-old New York law, thereby making it easier for Maryland residents to acquire concealed carry permits, Moore called it a “misguided and dangerous decision.” Cox instead celebrated the breaking down of barriers to get a gun.
When Hogan responded to the ruling by telling the Maryland State Police to suspend the state’s own “good and substantial reason” standard for obtaining a concealed carry permit, Moore also called Hogan’s move “reckless” and said on Twitter: “This is why governors matter. I am committed to getting firearms off our streets.”
Democratic leaders in the Maryland legislature have not said what specific steps they might take to amend Maryland’s concealed carry law next session as a result.
Before the General Assembly this year banned “ghost guns,” difficult-to-trace weapons that lack a serial number or are sold in parts for later assembly, Moore pushed for such a ban. He supports creating a firearms database to help law enforcement track guns used in crimes.
Cox opposed the bill that prohibited the possession, sale and transfer of ghost guns, and wrote on Facebook that he would have vetoed it if he had he been governor. During a House Judiciary Committee voting session in March, he compared the bill to the war in Ukraine. In his remarks, Cox said he shared the concerns of “law-abiding Marylanders who will overnight become criminals unless they register their property with the government.
“I mean, look at what’s going on in Ukraine … the whole world is cheering on the citizenry taking up arms to defend themselves against a atrociously horrific regime coming in to attack them. So this [bill] simply allows for bigger government to track and also entrap law-abiding people.”
Cox voted against legislation sponsored by Democratic House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, who has endorsed Moore, that requires firearms dealers to increase security measures to keep guns from being stolen.
Cox has been vocal in his opposition to public health mandates as they relate to the COVID-19 pandemic. He often won’t use the word “vaccination” on social media, opting instead to treat it like a dirty word, as in “va**ination,” or by just writing “V” or “jab.”
He has taken several opportunities to knock Moore’s stance on COVID precautions for his events.
“Our campaign is about your freedom and everyone will be welcome and included regardless of their private health status,” Cox wrote on Facebook in July.
While Cox is in favor of personal freedom as it relates to an individual’s vaccination status, his policy is stricter in other aspects of health care. During the 2021 legislative session, Cox voted against a bill to expand access to counseling and mental health care to children ages 12 through 17 without parental consent. When he stood in opposition to the bill on the House floor — on Holocaust Remembrance Day — Cox wore a mask printed with an image from the Nuremberg trials of high-ranking Nazi officials after World War II. He compared the bill to the Nazi’s medical experimentation on millions of Jews.
Cox is staunchly anti-abortion, voting in opposition to both Maryland’s Abortion Care Access Act, which went into effect earlier this year, and Jones’ attempt to hold a statewide referendum on the question of enshrining access to reproductive health care in the state constitution.
Cox celebrated when a draft of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade leaked earlier this year.
“I pray God it’s true. And because of the three SCOTUS seats appointed by President Trump. Roe v. Wade and abortion on demand are no more,” Cox wrote on social media. “May it ever be forgiven our land and may the blood of the innocent be part of the cloud of witnesses that triumphantly proclaim with all Americans ‘we are endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights…of Life…!’”
The ruling, issued in June, overturned the court’s 1973 decision in the Roe case, which had guaranteed the right to an abortion.
Moore, on the other hand, has pledged to expand access to abortion and establish Maryland as a “safe haven for reproductive health care.” Months before it was clear the court would overturn Roe, Moore aligned himself with the attempt to protect the right to an abortion in the state constitution. He has said he would support legislation in Annapolis to do so.
Moore has also said he would, upon taking office in January, release $3.5 million designated under a 2022 state law to train additional clinicians to perform abortions. The money is not legally required to be in the budget until July, and Hogan declined to release the funds early.
The rest of Moore’s health care vision focuses on expanding access to Medicaid and mental health services, and attempting to lower prescription drug costs through steps such as adding staff to the Maryland Prescription Drug Affordability Board.
The General Assembly passed laws this year to more aggressively reduce the state’s carbon footprint and set benchmarks in the coming decades. Moore has proposed further steps to implement those plans.
His climate agenda calls for 80% of Maryland’s electricity to be produced by “clean sources” by 2030 and 100% by 2035. That would include continuing to expand offshore wind and solar projects.
Among other parts of that agenda, he would appoint a chief sustainability, mitigation and resilience officer in the governor’s office to oversee the implementation of climate-related actions.
Cox has largely kept mum regarding an environmental and climate agenda. However, he voted against the Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022, which created new energy conservation requirements for buildings and seeks to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2045, among other steps.
The Baltimore Sun reached out to the Cox campaign to inquire about his positions on environmental issues, but did not receive a response.
While residents gear up to cast their ballots for either Cox or Moore this November, they will also get to vote in a referendum on whether Maryland should become the next state to legalize cannabis.
This session, the General Assembly passed a bill that will allow voters to decide whether to amend the state constitution to legalize the possession of up to 1.5 ounces of personal-use marijuana for people above age 21. The law would go into effect July 1.
A separate bill would adjust existing criminal justice policy and regulate marijuana possession and usage, should it be legalized. If Marylanders vote in favor of legalization, that bill would take effect Jan. 1.
Cox voted against both measures.
Moore supported putting the question of legalization before voters and has talked about implementing a recreational cannabis industry with a focus on equity “so that communities that have experienced the greatest disparities benefit the most,” he wrote in his policy platform. He proposes “evaluating employment restrictions for individuals with cannabis-related convictions and ensuring Black-owned cannabis businesses are given the opportunity to grow and thrive,” he wrote. Tax revenue from cannabis sales should be used to “address the past harms of criminalization,” campaign spokesperson Brian Jones said.
For the past three legislative sessions, Democratic state Sen. Jill P. Carter of Baltimore has sponsored legislation to decriminalize drug paraphernalia, including hypodermic needles. The bill passed during the 2021 session, but was vetoed by Hogan. Cox voted in opposition to its passage.
Carter and House Judiciary Committee Vice Chair David Moon, a Montgomery County Democrat, reintroduced the paraphernalia decriminalization bill in 2022. Cox again voted in opposition to the legislation. It passed out of the House but didn’t make it out of the Senate.
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Moore has not come out in support of or in opposition to the paraphernalia decriminalization bill.
Moore has vocally backed legislation, which Cox opposed, to support Maryland’s LGBTQ community.
The Democrat said he would work to implement the Inclusive Schools Act, passed this year, which bans schools from discriminating against students based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Cox voted against the bill and supported an amendment offered by Republican Del. Kathy Szeliga, who represents Baltimore and Harford counties, that would have barred public schoolteachers and staff from discussing gender and sexuality in the classroom — a policy similar to one implemented this year in Florida and colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
On social media, Cox calls discussions of LGBTQ+ issues in schools “propaganda” and “indoctrination” and alleges schools are participating in “brainwashing” and “sexual grooming.”
Moore supports the Trans Health Equity Act, a bill that did not pass in 2022. It would have required the state’s Medicaid program to cover gender-affirming treatment, defined in the bill as any necessary medical treatment prescribed by a health care provider and related to the individual’s gender identity.
On Facebook, Cox has alleged that allowing transgender women to participate in sports with women who were assigned the gender of female at birth is “discrimination” and would violate Title IX, a civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or education program that receives federal funding. Cox has promised to ban transgender athletes in women’s sports.