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Tuesday’s Maryland primary fights have a little bit of everything

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.

WASHINGTON — If it’s Tuesday ... It’s Primary Day in Maryland. ... National average gas prices drop below $4.50 a gallon. ... The House votes to codify same-sex marriage. ... Former Trump Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews and National Security Council aide Matthew Pottinger are expected to testify at Thursday’s Jan. 6 hearing. ... And Steve Bannon’s contempt of Congress trial begins.

But first: There are five primaries we’re watching today in Maryland — the sole state that’s holding primaries this month. 

And these contests feature many of the national storylines we’ve been following over the last several weeks. The Trump Factor. Democrats meddling in GOP primaries. Deep-pocketed groups intervening in local races. A Democratic-held congressional seat that could be surprisingly competitive in November. 

Maryland Governor, Democrat

A total of 10 Democrats — all men — are on the ballot, though one (Rushern Baker) has dropped out of the race. And the Top 3 candidates, per the polling, include state Comptroller Peter Franchot, former DNC Chair and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, and author and former nonprofit leader Wes Moore.

This contest to replace term-limited GOP Gov. Larry Hogan is one of the Democrats’ best pick-up opportunities this cycle. 

Maryland Governor, GOP

Four Republicans are vying for the GOP nomination, but the Top 2 has turned into a proxy war of sorts between Hogan (who has endorsed former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz) and Donald Trump (who is backing state Del. Dan Cox). 

As we wrote last week, national Democrats appear to be boosting Cox, too, given that the Democratic Governors Association has spent more than $1 million on ads describing him as “too close to Trump [and] too conservative for Maryland.”

That’s compared with just $20,000 Cox himself has spent over the airwaves (while Schulz has spent nearly $900,000). 

Maryland Attorney General

The Democratic primary includes current Rep. Anthony Brown, who started the race as the frontrunner. But he’s facing a tough challenge from former judge Katie Curran O’Malley, wife to former Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The GOP contest includes Michael Peroutka, a former Anne Arundel County Councilman whose ties to a nationalist group the League of the South were the subject of a recent Washington Post article, and attorney Jim Shalleck.

Maryland-04, Democrat

Brown’s decision to run for attorney general opened up this deep-blue Dem district, and the top candidates are Glenn Ivey (a former congressional aide who was previously elected as the state’s attorney for Prince George’s County) and former Rep. Donna Edwards (who represented a previous iteration of this district in Congress before unsuccessfully running for Senate in 2016).

Edwards and her allies have been outspent 7-to-1 on advertising, thanks in large part to United Democracy Project, a super PAC with ties to AIPAC that’s backed more moderate Democrats in multiple primaries, which has boosted Ivey in the race. The group has also launched negative ads against Edwards, labeling her as the “least effective” lawmaker during her time in Congress.

Edwards, meanwhile, has had some help from J Street, which has spent about $500,000 on ads. One spot attacks both Ivey and AIPAC, arguing the AIPAC-aligned PAC is partially bankrolled by GOP megadonors

Maryland-06, GOP

This is a race that’s developed late — conservative campaign operative turned journalist Matthew Foldi, 25, jumped into the race in in April and quickly won endorsements from Hogan, Donald Trump Jr., House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and others. Foldi’s opponents include state Del. Neil Parrott, who lost to incumbent Rep. David Trone, D-Md.  

Redistricting moved this district from one President Biden won by more than 20 points to one he won by 10, per Politico’s redistricting analysis. That means the GOP nominee could run a competitive race against Trone, the wealthy incumbent and owner of Total Wine & More who just loaned his campaign $10 million. The Cook Political Report rates this race as Lean Democrat.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … $14.9 million

That’s how much has been spent on airwaves in the Maryland gubernatorial primary, the marquee race on the calendar today, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. 

The vast majority of that — $13.7 million, has come on the Democratic side. Non-profit executive and best-selling author Wes Moore has led the pack with $3.2 million, followed by the outside group backing former Labor Secretary. Tom Perez, Maryland Opportunity, with $2 million. Perez’s campaign has spent $1.8 million, and Comptroller Peter Franchot has spent $1.6 million. 

On the GOP side, Kelly Schulz, the former state Commerce secretary backed by Gov. Larry Hogan, spent $914,000, while her opponent, the Trump backed state Del. Dan Cox, has spent just $20,000. But Cox has gotten a big boost from the Democratic Governors Association, which has spent more than $1.2 million on ads labeling Cox as “too conservative” and emphasizing his ties to Trump — ads that could cost him in a general election, but right now, could help him with Republican voters. 

Other numbers to know:

38%: President Biden’s approval rating in a new CNN/SSRS poll, with his approval on the economy at 30% and inflation at 25%.

1984: The year Dr. Anthony Fauci took over the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci is likely to retire by the end of President Biden’s term. 

$27.6 million: How much Democratic gubernatorial nominee Beto O’Rourke raised from late February through June, what the Texas Tribune says is a record for any statewide candidate in one filing period. (GOP Gov. Greg Abbott raised a massive $24.9 million over that same period.) 

18: The number of members of Congress, all Republicans, who voted against a resolution expressing support for Finland and Sweden to join NATO.  

8: The number of House offices where staff filed petitions to unionize, per the New York Times.

Midterm roundup: The waiting game 

While there are several races to watch in Maryland, it could be a while before we know the winners, thanks to how Maryland counts mail ballots. Election officials can’t even open mail ballots and begin to count them until Thursday, according to the Baltimore Sun. 

The potential for prolonged counting comes as Cox, Trump’s pick in the governor’s race, has already started to cast doubt on the election results. He’s threatened lawsuits and suggested people are stuffing ballot drop boxes, without providing any evidence, per the New York Times. 

If Cox loses and cries foul, he wouldn’t be the only primary loser to do so. The Associated Press reports that other unsuccessful GOP candidates, some with a history of questioning the 2020 election, are echoing Trump’s false claimsof fraud and ascribing that to their losses this year.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Arizona Senate: The Arizona Republic reports a new Blake Masters ad on the border touts technology linked to his main benefactor, and colleague, Peter Thiel.

Florida Senate: The National Republican Senatorial Committee and GOP Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign launched a new TV adfeaturing police officers, with one officer saying of Democratic Rep. Val Demings, “Maybe she used to be a cop, but in Washington, Val Demings is just another radical rubber stamp.” The spot is part of a new coordinated ad buy of just under $500,000 this week, per AdImpact. Demings, meanwhile, just tested positive for Covid. 

Missouri Senate: Independent Senate hopeful John Wood’s campaign says it hit the minimum number of signatures collected to make the ballot (those signatures have not yet been certified). Wood’s being backed by a super PAC run by former GOP Sen. John Danforth, which plans to spend $20 million on the race, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 

Pennsylvania Senate: Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is adding fundraisers with Democratic Jewish OutreachMassachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the DSCC to his calendar as he starts to inch back out into the public eye after suffering a stroke. 

Wisconsin Senate: Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes’ Senate bid. 

Pennsylvania Governor: GOP state Sen. Doug Mastriano has been deleting Facebook videos as he runs for governor, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. And Politico explores Mastriano’s prospects in a tough year for Democrats.   

New York-10: Former impeachment lead counsel Dan Goldman booked $600,000 in TV ads over the next week in the crowded Democratic primary, per AdImpact. 

Washington-04: The GOP super PAC Defending Main Street is going up with a new ad attacking the primary opponent of Rep. Dan Newhouse, who voted for Trump’s impeachment. The ad blasts Newhouse’s primary opponent, Loren Culp, accusing him of being a corporate “tax dodger.” 

Ad watch: Nelson makes his pitch in Wisconsin

In a new ad, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson makes his pitch to Wisconsin voters about why he should be their choice for the Democratic nomination for Senate.

“I’ve won six times in Trump country, pulling for what matters: jobs, Medicare for All, union rights, women’s rights, a planet in crisis,” Nelson tells viewers in the ad.

It’s Nelson’s third TV ad in the race against seven other candidates, including some who have already spent millions. With this ad, Nelson has spent over $267,000 on the airwaves, according to AdImpact. 

Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, one of Nelson’s opponents, has spent over $10 million on ads so far. And, State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, another Democratic candidate for Senate, has spent over $2.8 million.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world 

The Supreme Court will let Indiana enforce its law requiring parental notification before a minor can get an abortion.

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers is in the fight of his political life after he spoke out against Trump’s conduct after the 2020 election. 

Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., who ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state, has been subpoenaed as part of the Fulton County district attorney’s investigation into whether Trump and others interfered in the 2020 election.