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