After all the debates and the speeches and the rhetoric, Maryland’s seemingly endless 2014 election season all comes down to Tuesday night.
At the top of the ticket is the campaign for governor between Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, the Democrat, and Republican Larry Hogan.
Here are a few things experts will be watching as the votes are counted.
Experts agree: The success or failure of either Brown or Hogan will depend on turnout.
In Maryland, Democrats have a 2 to 1 advantage over Republicans in voter registration. There are another 660,000 unaffiliated voters, bringing the state’s total to about 3.5 million.
How many turn out, and where they live, will ultimately decide the election.
“In this case, the really important turnout to watch will be among African-American voters because they make up 25 percent of the electorate and are such a reliable Democratic block,” said Matthew Crenson, professor emeritus with the Department of Political Science at the Johns Hopkins University.
Turnout in early voting, which ended Thursday, was at 8.3 percent — a full two points higher than in 2010, but less of an increase than expected given this year’s two extra early-voting days.
“What it speaks to is low turnout,” said John Bullock, assistant professor of political science at Towson University.
Bullock said he visited a number of early voting centers and there “didn’t seem to be throngs of people.”
Mileah Kromer, a professor of political science at Goucher College, said early voting and tightening polls clearly have the attention of the Brown campaign, which is bringing in Democratic luminaries such as Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama to stump for the Democrat.
“We’ll see if it’s enough to get people to come out and vote for him,” Kromer said.
The importance of the black vote hasn’t gone ignored.
President Barack Obama campaigned for Brown in October and the state Democratic Party sent mailings focusing on racial issues to jurisdictions with large numbers of black voters, including Prince George’s and Charles counties.
Todd Eberly, a professor of political science at St. Mary’s College, said none of that happens “if Maryland Democrats aren’t concerned about what is happening.”
Within the larger state numbers, some jurisdictions will be watched as results come in:
* Baltimore County — Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. won the jurisdiction by more than 60,000 votes in 2002 and become governor. Four years later, he won the county by about 8,000 votes but lost to O’Malley. Polls show Hogan ahead in the Baltimore suburbs and he’ll need to win the county by a wide margin if he hopes to offset margins in Democratic strongholds.
* Prince George’s — This is one of those strongholds for the Democrats and Brown hopes to see big numbers from his home county.
* Montgomery — Another key county, because it is home to a trove of solid Democratic votes. Voter turnout in the primary was a lackluster 16 percent and nearly all the races in the county, including House and Senate races, were decided in June.
Senate races to watch
Democrats hold an overwhelming majority among the 188 seats in the General Assembly. Still, there are some competitive races that bear watching.
Some believe Republicans could pick up as many as two seats in the Senate.
In Baltimore County, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has been putting resources and money into the campaigns of John A. Olszewski Jr., who is looking to step up from his House seat and succeed retiring Sen. Norman Stone. Miller is also involved in trying to help three-term Sen. Jim Brochin win a fourth term after the Senate president helped redraw that district to one that was less favorable to Democrats.
In St. Mary’s County, five-term Democratic Sen. Roy A. Dyson faces a challenge from Republican Steve Waugh.
Corey Stottlemeyer is hoping to unseat one-term Sen. Ronald N. Young in Frederick County.
On the Eastern Shore, one-term Sen. James N. Mathias faces a challenge from one-term Del. Michael A. McDermott.
None of the Democratic incumbents should look to Anthony Brown for help in the way of coattails.
“He doesn’t have any,” said Crenson, the Hopkins professor.
The write stuff
There are also a number of races featuring write-in candidates, including Tony Solesky’s bid for Baltimore County Executive and Russell A Neverdon Sr.’s quest to become Baltimore City State’s Attorney. Neverdon, a lawyer in Baltimore, is waging a write-in campaign against Marilyn Mosby, the Democratic nominee, after the Board of Elections found he hadn’t come up with enough signatures to run as an Independent.
A late entry into the field of write-in candidates, and one of the more interesting races, is Del. Shawn Z. Tarrant’s attempt to defeat fellow Democratic Del. Frank M. Conaway Jr. in the 40th District.
Tarrant, D-Baltimore City, finished fourth in the race for three seats in the June primary. Since there are no Republicans in that race, the campaign was considered over until the Baltimore Sun ran a story about a series of odd writings and videos posted online by Conaway.
Tarrant has not been shy about his campaign against Conaway. Still, it’s an uphill race for a write-in candidate under any circumstance.
“I just don’t think write-in candidates have much of a chance,” said Crenson.