Maryland 2014 Election Lessons, Part 1

Governor-elect Larry Hogan begins a statewide victory tour on Tuesday with a Veterans’ Day parade appearance in St. Mary’s County, one of many counties that contributed to his somewhat surprising victory over Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown last week. Brown, who was supposed to be the next Maryland governor, won’t be having any parades in the near future. 

On election eve, I wrote the following:

“If no more than 1.5 or 2 percentage points separate Democrat Anthony Brown and Republican Larry Hogan at the end of election night, it’s at least a moral victory for Republicans.”

It turned out to be something more than a “moral” victory for Hogan and Republicans. The Hogan-Rutherford ticket won by more than 4 percentage points, 51.4 percent to 46.9 percent. A Libertarian candidate siphoned off 1.4 percent of the vote. Hogan deserves his victory lap. He reportedly plans to visit every jurisdiction in Maryland. Meanwhile, let’s begin to put the 2014 election in perspective. If you take away anything from this election, take this:

The Democratic Party is not invincible in Maryland.

We should all write that sentence on the blackboard 100 times. Even the casual observer knew that Hogan ran a good campaign and he might possibly eke out a slim victory. The four-point margin was surprising, but no one need act shocked. Republicans did well throughout the state. In key county executive races, Republicans came out ahead in Howard, Anne Arundel, and Wicomico counties; the Democrat won in Frederick County. Democrats maintained solid control in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, as expected. Republicans picked up a handful of seats in the Maryland General Assembly, but no more than would be expected in the sixth year of a Democratic presidency and the eighth year of a Democratic governor. Nonetheless, Republicans set a new “Personal Best” for the party when they won 50 seats in the House of Delegates, more than ever before.

The number 50 may give the party a psychological boost. But Republicans remain the clear minority, far behind the Democratic majority in the 147-seat House of Delegates. Most of the seats that changed parties are in Baltimore County.  Democrats also suffered painful losses in Harford County and on the Eastern Shore. I suppose the results confirm that Baltimore County is the swing county in Maryland elections. Anyone paying attention has known that for a decade. You might even say, “As Baltimore County goes, so goes Maryland.” Martin O’Malley understood this.

Taken together, Republican victories in the governor’s race and gains in legislative and local contests do not constitute a turning point in history. The Republican victories are a little surprising. They are not a landslide. Hogan doesn’t have a “mandate” for anything. Except, of course, cutting taxes. Taxes are never popular. But tax-cut fever was hotter than usual in 2014. It’s the issue that turned the election.

By the final week of the campaign, Lt. Gov. Brown, along with nearly every  Democratic candidate in the state, was ready to take a tax pledge. Your best source for all the Maryland General Election results is at the Maryland State Board of Elections website.

We’ll take a closer look at what the election results mean in Parts 2, 3, and 4 of this series.  But it’s far too early to answer the most important questions: What, if anything, does 2014 portend for 2016, 2018, and beyond? And will Republicans be able expand further in the House of Delegates, or is 50 seats the high water mark? — John Hayden

4 thoughts on “Maryland 2014 Election Lessons, Part 1

  1. Good morning, and thanks for your focus on the fallout of our recent elections.In your writeup about county exec races, you neglected to include MoCo as one that kept a D… Mostly I hope you will cover/critique the MNCPPC series beginning this Wednesday (6-7:30 & streamed).


    • Thank you for commenting. As you note, Montgomery County re-elected Ike Leggett to a third term as county executive by the usual wide margin. The county executive race in Montgomery County was never in doubt. Ditto all nine MoCo Council seats. In recent elections, not a single Republican has won a county or state legislative seat in MoCo. Same situation in Prince George’s and The City.

      Four mid-sized counties — Frederick, Howard, Anne Arundel, and Wicomico — had county executive races that were competitive enough to be meaningful. Republican victories in Howard and Wicomico are particularly painful, because those two counties previously had Democratic executives.

      Many Democrats had prematurely painted Howard as a Blue county. However, the 2014 results indicate that Howard remains in the Purple category. Wicomico, on the other hand, was already Red, along with the rest of the Eastern Shore. The losses in Wicomico of Rick Politt as executive and Del. Norm Conway — a respected leader in the General Assembly — are particularly painful, at least for me. Conway and Politt were two of the remaining strong Democratic leaders on the Shore. The Democratic Party has now been all but wiped out on the Shore, with the exception of Democrats in Salisbury. I fear that Democrats on the Shore will not bounce back soon.

      The one bright spot for Democrats was Frederick County, which appears to be on the cusp of changing from Red to Blue, or at least Purple.

      I am a one-person blogging operation, and I have other obligations beyond the blog. Therefor, I won’t be able to cover the Park & Planning Commission. If you would like to report on the WNCPPC, I would be happy to publish your report as a guest post. You can reach me at


  2. Hey Bernie—did you see Rascovar’s column on how Brown blew it. Textbook case. Interesting.

    Mahlon G. (Lon) Anderson
    Managing Director, Public and Govt. Affairs
    AAA Mid-Atlantic
    Twitter: AAAGuy
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    • Thanks for the heads-up, Lon! I’ll take a look. I imagine that one of the most important results of Larry Hogan’s victory will be in the area of transportation infrastructure. If you would like to contribute any of your thoughts on that subject, I’d be happy to publish them as a guest post.


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