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How Hogan Staged This Upset

Larry Hogan and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown addressed attendees at the Maryland Association of Counties summer meeting.
Christopher Connelly/WYPR
Larry Hogan and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown addressed attendees at the Maryland Association of Counties summer meeting.
Larry Hogan and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown addressed attendees at the Maryland Association of Counties summer meeting.
Credit Christopher Connelly / WYPR
Larry Hogan/ Anthony Brown

Within days after last June’s primary, pollsters had written off Republican Larry Hogan in his race against Lt. Governor Anthony Brown. But somehow, Hogan pulled off a stunning upset, capturing more than 51 percent of the vote for governor in one of the bluest states in the nation.

He did it by running a good campaign and out hustling Brown, who "acted as if this was a coronation," said MelissaDeckman, chair of the political science department at Washington College inChestertown.Marylandersare dissatisfied with the status quo and "very cranky," which gave Hogan an opportunity, she said.  "Republicans were genuinely excited for Hogan.  Whereas Brown was kind of a 'meh' candidate - he was just sort of middling and not very exciting," she said.  He never gave voters a good reason to vote for him.

So, the Republican candidate saw an opportunity, she said. He rolled the dice and used Maryland's public campaign finance funds.  It capped how much his campaign could raise, but also gave him an infusion of money immediately after the primary. "It was smart and shrewd for him to do that," Deckmansaid.  It wasn't as if the Maryland Republican party was well organized, nor did it have deep pockets, she said. Hogan wasn’t going to get much money there.

So, the Hogan team chugged on through the summer, still trailing Brown, but closing the gap, according to Hogan's internal polls.

ToddEberly, chair of the political science department at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said Hogan was gaining traction as fall approached. “The debates helped a lot. Hogan held his own,” he said. "And people started to think he had a chance here."

Then Hogan's momentum drew attention from national Republican heavyweights,Eberlysaid. New Jersey Governor, Republican Chris Christie hopped on Hogan's campaign trail.  And the Republican Governors Association raised money for Hogan as well.

Come Election Day, Brown took Baltimore City and the Washington D.C. suburbs, as expected.  But Hogan handily won the Republican counties and won big time in swing counties.  He took Howard County - even though County Executive KenUlmanwas on Brown’s ticket.  And he took Baltimore County with almost sixty percent of the vote.

MileahKromerfromGoucherCollege said throughout the campaign, Hogan repeatedly told the voters they pay too much in taxes..  And that is what moderate Democrats and independents wanted to talk about.

At the same time, there was a mismatch between what the voters were saying and what the Brown campaign was delivering.  "It was clear from theGoucherpoll, The [Baltimore] Sun poll, and The Washington Post poll that the number one issue forMarylanderswas the economy, the economy, the economy," Kromersaid. "And the Brown campaign continued to make the election about guns and reproductive rights." In the end, Hogan got independents to lean right and flipped moderate Democrats,Kromersaid.

Even though his internal polls showed him with a lead late in the campaign, Hogan seemed surprised at a press conference the morning after his victory.  He said, "[his campaign team] set vote goals that were nearly impossible to attain in every county in the state and we blew past all of them."

So what does this say about the future of the state? Is Maryland turning red?

Kromer, who runs theGoucherpoll as well as teaches political science, said one election doesn’t turn a state away from a political party.  But, she said, it may make it easier for future Republican candidates. "Voting is habitual.   And once you vote for a Republican one time, it becomes easier to do it again."  She said that trend can perpetuate itself unless the Democrats make a stronger showing in the next election.

Copyright 2014 WYPR - 88.1 FM Baltimore

News WYPR News
Mary Rose is a reporter and senior news producer for 88.1 WYPR FM, a National Public Radio member station in Baltimore. At the local news desk, she assigns stories, organizes special coverage, edits news stories, develops series and reports.
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