Curb Your Enthusiasm

Well, at least one thing went right in last night’s election.

Last night Governor Larry Hogan won an overwhelming, resounding, historic, almost unbelievable victory last night over Democratic nominee Ben Jealous. Some of the superlatives last night:

  • At the time of publication, Governor Hogan received 1,196,352. That’s more votes than any Governor in the history of our state. Not just any Republican Governor, but any Governor of either party.
  • Governor Hogan received 56.2% of the vote. That’s a higher percentage of the vote than any Republican Governor in history.
  • Governor Hogan is the first Republican governor to be re-elected since 1954.

Governor Hogan joked last night that on “Tonight in this deep-blue state, in this blue year, with a blue wave, it turns out I can surf.” And he did.  As Mileah Kromer pointed out in her Sun op-ed, he really did win this race more so than his opponent lost it. And Governor Hogan’s re-election is critically important to the future of our state and to the future of the Republican Party.

Downballot though, Election Day was a complete nightmare:

  • The Republican “Drive for Five” netted out a +1 for Republicans in the State Senate. Republicans won the seat in District 38 (Mary Beth Carozza) and District 42 (Chris West), but Senator Gail Bates went down to defeat in District 9. The results of the other Drive for Five seats were losses that ran from the close (District 8, 1.3%) to the not so much (District 28, 32.5%).
  • Eight losses in the House of Delegates, including Delegate Bill Folden in 3B, two of the three Republicans in District 8, Bob Flanagan in District 9, Deb Rey in District 29B, Glen Glass in District 34A, and one seat in District 42B.
  • Another shutout in Montgomery County;
  • Loses in all four competitive County Executive races: Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, and Frederick Counties.
  • And close to home, a total wipeout in Anne Arundel County including not only a loss by County Executive Steve Schuh, but a Democratic take over of the County Council, an upset win for State’s Attorney, and the election of a Democratic Clerk of the Court which is something that has never happened in my lifetime.
  • A wipeout of a large chunk of the bench of potential 2022 Republican candidates for Governor.

Trending: Thank You

Governor Hogan’s re-election is monumental. It is huge. It is critical. But there were no coattails. And there’s a lot of unhappiness underneath.

The strangest part of all of this is the fact that Republicans statewide have nothing to be ashamed of. The Maryland Republican Party ran its strongest statewide operation in years, if ever. There were credible, well-funded candidates who ran strong, competitive campaigns across the state. The Drive for Five candidates were good candidates, with good campaigns, and with a good strategy. Al Redmer ran a great campaign. Allan Kittleman was a successful county executive who ran a strong re-election campaign. Doug Arnold, the candidate for Clerk in Anne Arundel County, was the most qualified candidate around for Clerk who ran a strong, disciplined campaign.

You know what happened to the Drive for Five. Al Redmer lost by 15 points. Allan Kittleman lost by 4.5%. Doug Arnold lost to a guy whose campaign strategy was illegally placed yard signs.

This isn’t a criticism of any of these guys or their campaigns. They got caught in the wave.

And ultimately, that’s what this comes down to. Larry Hogan was able to surf the wave. There were a number of reasons why he was able to do so. One was because Hogan did exactly what he said he was going to do during the course of the last four years; promises made and promises kept, just like we said that he would be able to do four years ago. On top of that, the Democrats nominated Ben Jealous, clearly the worse candidate for statewide office that we have ever seen. People were enthusiastic to vote for Governor Hogan.

But they were not enthusiastic to do much else for Republicans:

Ben Seacrist of Elkridge said there is now a stark divide between Democrats like him and Republicans. “That line in the sand just has me kind of voting out of spite against Republicans,” said Seacrist, 28. “I begrudgingly voted all Democrat.”

Similarly, 68-year-old Maxine German-Dawkins, who voted in Elkridge, voted a straight Democratic ticket because of her opposition to Trump. And so did Baltimore voter Nate Carper, 41. “I honestly have no problem with [Gov. Larry] Hogan, but I felt I had to vote for [Ben] Jealous to send a message,” he said.

And that’s what this ultimately comes down to. Governor Hogan was able to ride the wave because of his personal popularity because he was successful in doing what he promised he would do, because the Hogan campaign was the most well-oiled political machine Maryland has ever seen, and because  Ben Jealous was the biggest dumpster fire of a candidate we have ever seen.

Would the results have been different if the Democrats nominated any other candidate but Ben Jealous? Hard to say, given the results elsewhere in the state.

But what is apparent is that while voters were willing to vote Republican for Governor Larry Hogan, they were not willing to vote Republican. It seems that the blame for that lays not in Annapolis, but in Washington. Voters were not into what President Donald Trump was selling, and they were willing to punish down-ballot Republicans to send some sort of message. Will that message be received in Washington? No, because nobody in Washington gives much of a hoot about state and local politics. Is that message ultimately going to come back to bite these voters in the behind? Yes, because these voters don’t understand or don’t care that they are “sending a message to Washington” when Congressional and Presidential Politics affects them less than county government does. A lot of these voters elected tax and spend Democrats in order to send a message to people who will never hear it.

But the voters did what they did. It is abundantly clear that the unpopularity of President Trump led to downballot Republican losses across Maryland.

So yes friends, let’s be excited about Governor Hogan’s re-election. It’s a big freaking deal. But let’s also take a moment to realize that a lot of good people who ran good campaigns went down to unexpected losses on Tuesday. We’ve got a lot of work to do to pick up the pieces, begin the work toward the 2022 election, and continue to move toward creating a truly competitive two-party state.

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