CNN
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Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen easily fended off a Democratic primary challenge on Tuesday, according to a CNN projection.

Elections officials in the state on Tuesday night began what could be a weeks-long process of counting ballots, with races left to be decided that will test Democratic voters’ views of the party’s establishment and Republicans’ willingness to stick with what’s been a winning formula for the GOP in the deep-blue state.

Polls closed at 8 p.m. ET, and county officials were barred from beginning to process the record-breaking number of mail-in ballots for a primary election until after in-person voting concluded.

The marquee contest on Maryland’s primary ballots Tuesday was the governor’s race. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who is among his party’s most moderate figures and one who has frequently criticized former President Donald Trump, is barred by term limits from seeking reelection.

His departure has turned the primaries in the governor’s race – one unfolding in a state where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by about two-to-one, but where the GOP has held the governor’s office for 12 of the last 20 years – into a window into the larger battles unfolding in both parties on the national stage.

Republican voters had four candidates on their gubernatorial primary ballot – but the race was primarily a clash between Hogan’s moderate wing and those devoted to Trump and his brand of politics.

The Hogan-backed Kelly Schulz, Maryland’s former secretary of commerce, faced Dan Cox, a far-right state lawmaker who sued to block Hogan’s coronavirus pandemic-related mandates and sought to impeach the GOP governor over those public safety measures.

Democrats, meanwhile, saw a wide-open showdown featuring 10 candidates – a field that included former Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez, Oprah Winfrey-backed author Wes Moore, state comptroller Peter Franchot, former US Education Secretary John King and Doug Gansler, the former Maryland attorney general and failed 2014 gubernatorial candidate.

The primaries in the governor’s race are the most closely watched contests on Tuesday’s slate in Maryland, where the election was pushed back three weeks due to litigation over the state’s legislative maps.

Election results could take days or even weeks to finalize. According to Maryland’s Board of Elections, more than 508,000 people requested mail-in ballots – shattering previous records for primaries. Counties cannot begin counting those ballots until Thursday, and elections officials say some counties could still be counting mail-in ballots in the first week of August.

Several candidates for governor would make history in a state that has only ever elected White men as its chief executive.

Perez, the former DNC chairman, emphasized his national experience as well as his local roots. He is a former Montgomery County councilman and was Maryland’s labor secretary prior to joining former President Barack Obama’s Justice Department as assistant attorney general for civil rights and later, Obama’s US labor secretary.

A Perez ad used Obama’s previous comments about Perez, with the former President calling Perez “tireless” and “wicked smart.”

Moore, meanwhile, aired an ad voiced by Winfrey, in which the television star calls Moore a friend and walks through his resume. Winfrey calls Moore “the type of transformational leader that these times demand.”

Schultz is a rare Republican who could tap into Hogan’s unusual popularity in Maryland – a reality that could appeal to GOP voters focused on electability but alienate those who have soured on Hogan after years of criticism of Trump.

The Democratic Governors Association pumped more than $1 million into television ads seeking to boost Cox, who Democrats view as the weaker candidate in November’s general elections.

Those ads highlight Cox’s positions that could be popular in a Republican primary but politically problematic in a blue state’s general election, including his opposition to gun restrictions and abortion rights and his endorsement from Trump. One spot calls Cox “too close to Trump, too conservative for Maryland.”

Schultz, in a news conference with Hogan last month, said that Democrats are attempting to “spend a million now and save $5 million by not having to face me in the general election.”

Cox, meanwhile, has stoked fears about election fraud. He said in December 2020 on Facebook that Trump should seize voting machines. He chartered three buses to Trump’s January 6, 2021, rally in Washington. And he tweeted amid the insurrection, “Pence is a traitor.”

He has also threatened a lawsuit over mail-in ballots.

On a hot Election Day in Maryland, voters filed into their polling places. Portia Thompson, who said she has been voting since 1974, voted for Perez at the Colmar Manor Community Center and Town Hall.

“I think he would represent everyone. African Americans, Latinos, everyone. He also worked in President Obama’s administration, so I thought he had the experience,” Thompson said of Perez.

Among the down-ballot races that will be settled Tuesday are a House contest and a primary for attorney general – one that is effectively the general election in a state that hasn’t elected a Republican to the post in more than 100 years. (One Republican, Edward Rollins, was appointed to the post in 1952.)

Van Hollen, who suffered a minor stroke in May, defeated a primary challenge from Michelle Smith, a Freedom of Information Act policy analyst with the US Agency for International Development. Ten Republicans are vying to take on the winner of that primary, but Van Hollen is heavily favored to win a second term.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat who is the chamber’s No. 2-ranking member, also won his primary, CNN projected.

One of Maryland’s eight congressional seats is open this fall: The heavily Democratic 4th District seat, currently held by Democratic Rep. Anthony Brown, features former Rep. Donna Edwards facing former Prince George’s County state’s attorney Glenn Ivey in the Democratic primary.

Edwards has high-profile supporters, including Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Ivey is being bolstered by ads attacking Edwards from the super PAC affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Thompson said she decided to vote for Glenn Ivey in the 4th District race because she believes he’s a “great gentleman.”

“I don’t really have a negative opinion of Donna Edwards, but I like Glenn Ivey and his family. I like his wife. She comes around and will sit on your porch and talk to you,” she said.

Sharda Ramdat, a 46-year-old mother, said gun violence and abortion rights are her top priorities.

“I am worried for my kids every single day, and I feel like there’s no place you can have a moment of your own space. That’s a big deal. I really want change, especially with gun laws,” she said.

Ramdat said she was excited for Moore and believes he’s the best fit because he “had a hard life growing up” and would “understand where the middle class and poor people are coming from.”

The Democratic primary for Maryland attorney general was another key contest Tuesday. Brown, the former lieutenant governor under Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley who is leaving his House seat after three terms, is facing O’Malley’s wife, Katie Curran O’Malley, a former Baltimore City district court judge.

In an ad, O’Malley said Brown “is a fine congressman, but he’s never tried a criminal case in Maryland and he doesn’t have the right experience for this job.”

Brown, a Harvard-educated former military lawyer, is backed by VoteVets, which supports Democratic candidates with military experience. In an ad criticizing O’Malley, VoteVets slams O’Malley’s ad as “a shame,” saying that it “just dismisses the experience of one of the most qualified people to ever run for attorney general.”

Both would be history-making candidates – Brown as the first Black person to serve as Maryland attorney general, and O’Malley as the first woman to hold the office.

Marcela Orellano, 38, was at the East County Community Recreation Center in Silver Spring at 9:30 a.m. because she’s “terrified about the presidential election.” Although she said there is not a specific candidate that she’s very excited for in the Maryland primary, she wants to see change and is concerned about gun laws, women’s rights and immigration policies.

“I want to make sure I make a difference at least on the state level. I’m looking for Democrats to fight for the things that are important to me,” Orellano said.

Robin Jones, 68, said affordable housing is one of her top priorities and that she is most focused on local issues affecting her community.

“I went to work at the phone company at 17, and I could afford an apartment making $125 a week. Now an apartment is the same amount as a mortgage, and there’s just nowhere for folks to live,” Jones said.

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