Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. What You See Is What You Get.

This morning’s Washington Post, the concluding edition of 2014, carries a photo taken on Tuesday.

At the bottom of Page B6 you can view the picture: Maryland Governor-Elect Larry Hogan behind a lectern, flanked on his right by two American flags and two political appointees, and on his left by two Maryland flags and two more appointees.

Official and patriotic. Looks like a picture straight out of the 1950s.

To summarize, five white men in dark suits, middle-aged or older, in a row at the front of a press conference. If anyone was wondering what Maryland voted for in the 2014 General Election, there you have it. Old, white men in suits. What you see is what you get.

(I resemble that remark, “Old, white men in suits.” Please hold the hate mail. Being an old, white man myself, I claim privilege to ridicule. Please sentence me to time served, and release me to the supervision of my parole officer and the nursing home and/or asylum. To clarify: I am an old, white Democrat. I wear a suit and tie under duress, and only after all appeals have been denied.)

Let the record show that all the Hogan appointments to date appear to be well-qualified for their positions.

You may have heard that Maryland is a diverse state. Numerous races, ethnic groups, two genders, more than two legal sexual orientations. The Maryland Republican Party gets all that. I’m giving them the presumption of the doubt. Mr. Hogan has inoculated himself against the very point I raise by choosing an African-American to be his running mate, and now, by virtue of electoral success, the next lieutenant governor.

I won’t venture any predictions for 2015, much less the entire four-year term of the Hogan administration. Let the photo on B6 speak for itself. Such is the state of politics in Maryland on the cusp of 2015.

Have a Merry New Year. Choose to drink, or to drive. One only, not both.

— John Hayden


Maryland 2014 Election Lessons, Part 4. Grandfather Figures, Tax Cuts, And Negative Campaigning.

Earlier this week, Sen. Barbara Mikulski assembled a rather exclusive Democratic leadership meeting in Annapolis. Democratic leaders remaining in office in 2015 only. It was billed as looking ahead to 2016 and beyond; but the day-after reports suggested more time spent pondering what went wrong in 2014. The leaders seemed to be looking for some secret, hidden answer. Or maybe, for a scapegoat.  Continue reading

Maryland 2014 Election Lessons, Part 3. Democratic Turnout

(Updated 11-16-2014 to include alternative solutions in the conclusion.)

It’s past time for Democratic leaders in Montgomery County to snap out of their funk over the amazing shrinking turnout of MoCo voters.  Continue reading

Maryland 2014 Election Lessons, Part 2. Early and Absentee Voting

More Democrats in Maryland turned out in early voting than Republicans. I believe the early vote proves the superiority of the Democratic “ground game” in Maryland. Especially in close contests, Democratic candidates make a real effort to identify supporters and urge them to vote early or vote absentee. Think of it as “vote banking.”  Continue reading

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.  Continue reading

Waiting For Election Day In Maryland


What can we expect to learn by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning?

We might find out if Maryland is truly a one-party state. 

Or we might at least discover if Maryland is as Blue as both Democrats and Republicans pretend. Maybe the state is actually more like Purple.

We could confirm that voters are totally disconnected from politics this year.  Continue reading

Republican Hate Mail Angers Eastern Shore Voters

Maryland Republican Party leaders seem to think the Eastern Shore likes hate mail.

Republicans have mailed out a photo-shopped picture portraying Del. Norm Conway in a scary ski mask. They sent the picture, together with glaring distortions of Conway’s stands on issues, to every voter in Conway’s Salisbury district. The reverse side of the mailer continues the theme with a picture shadowed by prison bars. The Times newspaper of Salisbury is on the story like a blanket.

As the newspaper report points out, it’s rare for politics to get this ugly on the Shore, where good manners are the norm. The Times makes haste to note that the hate mail did not originate on the Eastern Shore. The reporter traced the over-the-top negative advertising to the executive director of the Maryland Republican Party in Annapolis. Conway’s Republican opponent in District 38B, Carl Anderton renounced the negative advertising.

Image via The Times of Salisbury.

Image via

Conway, a moderate-to-conservative Democrat, is used to attack campaigns from Republicans.  A former Salisbury city councilman and volunteer fire chief, Conway has represented the Lower Eastern Shore (District 38) in the General Assembly for as long as most people can remember. He was re-elected with little if any opposition until former governor Bob Ehrlich targeted him for defeat. (Ehrlich, of course, is not from Eastern Shore.  He’s a product of the Baltimore suburbs, start to finish.)

Republican negativity startled Conway when Ehrlich first introduced it. But the people of his district know Conway well, and they’ve continued to re-elect him. One reason is that Conway is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. The Eastern Shore relishes the power Conway wields in the General Assembly.

The Times noted that Republicans also have a negative web address targeting Sen. Jim Mathias, who also represents District 38. The url, redirects web surfers to the home page of Mike McDermott, the Republican candidate opposing Mathias. McDermott’s web site, headlined “No mud . . . Just the facts,” has been redesigned to attack Mathias. McDermott must be feeling pretty desperate if his web page has to lead with a denial that he’s throwing mud.

The Times has received complaints from voters about the hate mail, and printed two letters on the editorial page. One letter writer called the ski-mask mailer “despicable and misleading.”

Conway has always been the clear favorite to win in the new, gerrymandered District 38B. The backlash from the hate mail may hand him a landslide victory.

The District 38 Senate contest has been considered tight with Mathias possibly the winner by a nose. But McDermott’s attack web page might turn off people who would otherwise consider voting Republican. Look for Mathias to win by a full length after this episode.

Many people in District 38 disapprove of the Democratic Party. In fact, it’s not difficult to find people on the Shore who truly  hate  Democrats.

But Jim Mathias, former mayor of Ocean City, has about 99 percent name recognition in his district. Most year-round residents in the Ocean City area like Mathias personally, even if they disagree on some issues. In the most recent General Assembly sessions, Mathias has taken pains to reflect the district’s conservative opinions on issues. I once heard a Realtor say, “I love Jim, but I’m voting Republican.” That sentiment might be changing. Under the new circumstances, Mathias could win going away.

The other Democratic candidates in District 38, Percy Purnell (38A) and Judy Davis (38C) have been considered underdogs in elections that probably will be close. They can only benefit from any increase in sympathy for Mathias and Conway.

— John Hayden

It’s Anthony Brown’s Election To Win Or Lose

The Maryland election is Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s to lose. I think he’s leading by at least as much as Gov. Martin O’Malley’s winning margin over Bob Ehrlich four years ago.

If Brown turns out his voters in early voting and on Nov. 4, he wins. Period. Checkmate, Larry Hogan. Game over. Turnout also will be crucial for Democrats in some down-ballot contests.

Maryland Democrats Snooze Three Weeks Before Election

The election is three weeks from today. Why does my Democratic gut feel like it needs an Alka-Seltzer?

This is the saddest year for Maryland Democrats since Spiro Agnew won the governor’s mansion. At least Bob Ehrlich was a seasoned Maryland politician with years of service in Congress and the General Assembly. Who is this year’s Republican candidate? He’s the son of someone by the same name who was a congressman when I was a teenager, in the last century.

This year, we have two candidates who look sort of gubernatorial, no election for the U.S. Senate, and no contest in any of the state’s eight congressional districts. In Montgomery County, my home county and the largest jurisdiction in Maryland, there’s no visible sign of an impending election. I mean “no sign” literally. You see a few lonely lawns sprouting signs for Republicans. But Democratic signs, nada. And why should there be? Ike Leggett has a lock on the county executive’s office and nine Democratic council candidates are cruising to Election Day on automatic pilot. It’s no wonder the voters are disconnected. This is no way to run a democracy.

Not a single political message in my mailbox since the primary. (Email is a different story. Messages every day from Democrats begging for contributions.) The only candidate to be seen or heard from in Montgomery is Robin Ficker.  Seriously, Ficker is the only candidate I’ve seen since the June primary. I attended three Saturday-night outdoor concerts at Black Rock Theater in Germantown during the summer, and Ficker was working the crowd all three times. I seriously doubt, BTW, that Ficker can win, but stranger things have happened. If any Republican has a snowball’s chance in MoCo in 2014, it would have to be Ficker.

I chalk up the political disinterest to two factors.

First, there’s not a single exciting contest to stir the voters’ blood, not in MoCo, and not in Prince George’s County or Baltimore City, the state’s two other Democratic redoubts. If anyone knows of a General Assembly cliffhanger in Central Maryland, please let me know.

The second reason is related to the first. The Democratic Party in MoCo, P.G., and The City is the victim of its own success. Democrats so dominate politics in the big three that all suspense, energy and conflict has been drained from the system. Could you write a good novel or screenplay without CONFLICT?

Without conflict, there is no story. If there is any conflict left in the Big Three, it would be in the primaries, not the General Election. Alas, the entrenchment and almost certain re-election of Democratic incumbents in the local and legislative races has drained excitement even from the primaries. The turnout in June’s Maryland primary is Exhibit A.

With the days ticking down to the start of Early Voting, and the electorate snoozing, a Republican has been creeping slowly up behind the Democrat in the only statewide race that matters, the governor’s race. The candidates are Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, the Democrat who should be the runaway favorite; and Republican Larry Hogan, who unlike Agnew, Ellen Sauerbrey and Bob Ehrlich, the other serious Republicans to run for governor in modern history, has never held elective office.

That’s right. Agnew was county executive of Baltimore County, at that time one of the three most populous jurisdictions. Sauerbrey was minority leader in the House of Delegates, and Ehrlich was a congressman. What are Larry Hogan’s credentials? I can think of two: Hogan looks old enough to be governor, and he promises to cut taxes. Now, even Brown, the Democrat, is promising no new taxes.

Taxes is the only issue on the voter’s minds this election season. I’ve been making some phone calls to voters — a lot of phone calls, actually. When I ask about issues, the answer is taxes. It’s the next thing to unanimous. I’m calling on behalf of a Democratic candidate on the Eastern Shore, where Red Republicans are thick as mosquitoes, but Democrats and unaffiliated voters in the Blue counties have nearly as much antipathy to taxes this year. Just ask Brown.

So there you have it. Democrats in Central Maryland are in a self-induced coma. Republicans in the provinces are hopping mad, as always. I don’t think it will happen, but we could wake up with a Republican governor on Nov. 5.

— John Hayden

Maryland’s Election Outlook From A Statewide Perspective

For an excellent and concise report on the recent history of gubernatorial politics in Maryland, see “Looks Like We Have A Governor’s Race” over at David Lublin’s blog.

Last weekend, The Washington Post reported poll results showing Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, the Democratic candidate, with a relatively slim lead over Republican Larry Hogan.

Slim, but hardly surprising. The Brown candidacy has seemed eerily reminiscent of KKT from the beginning. The one encouraging difference is that Brown chose a much stronger candidate as his running mate than did KKT.

The political view from Montgomery County and Prince George’s County exaggerates Democratic invincibility in the state as a whole. Baltimore County remains the critical swing county.

Martin O’Malley, Peter O’Malley and County Executive Jim Smith worked to strengthen the Democratic position in Baltimore County, producing a safe margin of victory for O’Malley in 2010. It will be interesting to see how many of those Democratic votes show up in Baltimore County returns in 2014.

— John Hayden