Larry Hogan was elected yesterday to become the state’s second Republican governor in a half century. It was a startling political upset that raised questions about Maryland’s image as a comfort zone for Democrats.
Yet after weeks and months of growing confidence neither Hogan nor his fans seemed quite prepared for their audacious victory over the long-time Annapolis powers that be. “Wow! What a historic night in Maryland,” Hogan said at his victory party. “Thank you all so much. They said it couldn’t be done here in Maryland but together we did it.” The notion that this businessman who has never held elective office had somehow defeated Anthony Brown, the heir apparent to Governor Martin O’Malley, seemed to instantly turn Maryland into a battleground state. “ Tonight the voters of Maryland rejected the politics of deception and division. Tonight the voters showed that they were completely fed up with politics as usual.”
Hogan, coming in the wake of an administration that raised sales, gasoline and many other taxes, ran on a platform of fiscal conservatism. “Tomorrow our focus will be on jobs, struggling Maryland families and small businesses,” he told supporters. “We’re going to start the hard work of rolling back as many of these 40 tax increases as we possibly can.”
Former Republican Delegate Ellen Sauerbrey, who very narrowly lost a bid for governor in 1994, was savoring Hogan’s victory even before it was declared. “ I am so excited that we have finally got a candidate that I think they are not going to be able to steal it, his margin Is too great and I think he’s going to be a great governor.” Sauerbrey, who worked the polls for Hogan yesterday, said fiscal concerns resonate deeply with voters, who are thus unhappy with the Democratic leadership in Annapolis. “I think they have over-reached, I think they have over-taxed, they have over-spent, they have over regulated. They have driven businesses out of the state, families out of the state, and people are ready for some fiscal sanity.”
At the Samuel Riggs Alumni Hall in College Park, what was planned as a victory party lost steam and then turned grim as Lt. Governor Anthony Brown’s supporters watched each new update widen Hogan’s lead.
By midnight, it was clearly over. At 12:09, Brown took to the stage. “Tonight this campaign ends but our journey as a people and a state continues,” Brown said. “I’d like to congratulate Larry Hogan and his family and his team on tonight’s victory.” Brown wished Hogan luck in what he said was a difficult task of governing. “ But I also have a promise for all of you: That the things that we fought for on this campaign will not be ignored,” he continued. “We will continue to stand up and speak out for working families across this state as we work to strengthen the middle class and create more opportunities for more Marylanders .
Throughout Brown’s campaign, Democratic luminaries took turns trying to boost sputtering enthusiasm in the party’s base – the President, the first lady, Former president Clinton and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. The Democratic Governor’s association also spent big – the group through in over a million dollars for campaign ads attacking Hogan. But it wasn’t enough to beat back the rising tide, according to Maryland Senator Ben Cardin. “ Marylanders are, like around the nation, concerned about their economic future. They’re not satisfied with where we are today, and when they’re not satisfied the power that’s in control in Maryland was being questioned.”
Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger pointed to strategy: Brown lost big in populous, purple Baltimore County -- the swing county that went big for Maryland’s last Republican governor. Ruppersberger, who represents a chunk of the Baltimore region, said Brown didn’t do enough get his message out to voters there. “The Lieutenant Governor needed to define himself more than he did in the campaign. If they knew that he was a lieutenant colonel in the military, that he had leadership skills, I think those issues are important,” Ruppersberger said.
Montgomery County Senator Rich Madaleno said he was shocked by Brown’s loss. Madaleno explained, "across the board, the vast majority of Marylanders are playing less in taxes now than when the O’Malley administration started. What we haven’t done is messaging on taxes." Madeleno said he hopes Hogan is committed to governing and working together to move the state forward. “The one thing I feel certain of is everyone who won tonight loves the state of Maryland and wants to see the best for Maryland and its people--a competitive growing prosperous state.”
It’s just a question of whether Maryland’s new Republican governor can find a way to work that out with a Democrat-dominated legislature. That’s no small matter considering the fate of Robert Ehrlich, the most recent Republican governor. After his election in 2002, the Democratic leaders of the General Assembly tried to thwart him at nearly every turn. Hogan plans to start building his new administration today with the appointment of a transition committee.
But last night for him was a time for celebration and perhaps a bit of looking back. He recalled that his father, Larry Hogan, Sr., a former congressman and Prince Georges County executive, had also made a bid for the governor’s mansion—though it failed. “Forty years ago my Dad gave up a safe seat in Congress to run for governor and finally - 40 years later - we’re going to have a Larry Hogan in the governor’s mansion.” At that point, his father approached the podium and gave his son a hug. Hogan’s tenure may be a struggle, but at least it got off to a lofty start.