Republican Larry Hogan pulled off an upset Tuesday in the governor’s race, winning in heavily Democratic Maryland after focusing his campaign almost exclusively on recent tax increases and economic issues.
Hogan defeated Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-1 margin. The race was widely considered Brown’s to lose. While Brown prevailed easily in the state’s Democratic primary in June, he was criticized for months afterward for running a remote and uninspiring campaign. A late surge of big-name visits, including one from President Barack Obama, and a campaign blitz in Democratic strongholds of Prince George’s County and the city of Baltimore, failed to deliver the votes in a non-presidential election year.
Hogan, who is an Anne Arundel County real estate broker, ran an aggressive campaign. He criticized Brown for a variety of tax increases during Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s tenure.
“They’ve never met a tax they didn’t like or one they didn’t hike,” Hogan said in a debate last month with Brown, whom Hogan consistently linked his eight years in the O’Malley administration.
Hogan’s criticism of tax increases resonated with voters who cast their ballots for the Republican.
“I think Hogan will be better with taxes and keeping them lower,” said Ilene Dashoff, a 62-year-old retired teacher who voted in Baltimore County.
Some Marylanders, like other voters around the country, were motivated to see a change in leadership.
“I’m just disappointed in the O’Malley-Brown situation, and I think we need a change, and I’m hopeful, very hopeful, that something will change,” said Donna Carroll, 60, who voted in Annapolis.
Hogan, 58, campaigned on rolling back as many of the tax increases approved since 2007 as possible. And at an August forum in Catonsville retirement community, Hogan said he would try to end state income taxes on retirement income during his first term. He also said he would push to eliminate Maryland’s income tax on military pensions. However, he has been criticized for being short on details on where he would find the money to cut taxes and didn’t name cuts to make up for the lack of revenue.
Hogan also criticized Brown for his leadership role in the state’s badly flawed health care exchange website, which crashed almost as soon as it opened last year.
“It’s been a complete disaster,” Hogan said in the same debate, noting that tens of millions of dollars have been spent revamping Maryland’s website.
Hogan used public campaign financing, which meant he was limited to limited to spending $2.6 million in state funding, though he received additional help from the Maryland Republican Party, which raised to $1.8 million more for his campaign.
Hogan received considerable help from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who came to Maryland four times to boost the fellow Republican running in a Democratic state. Christie, who is chairman of the Republican Governors Association, raised more than $400,000 for Hogan’s campaign during his first stop in September.
Hogan served as appointments secretary for Gov. Robert Ehrlich from 2003 to 2007 in the state’s first Republican administration since Spiro Agnew won the governorship 36 years earlier in 1966. Hogan worked with the Democrat-controlled General Assembly on appointments to various state jobs. In a June interview with The Associated Press, Hogan promoted his ability to work with Democrats in that capacity as an important credential in being a Republican governor in Maryland.
“It took working with Democrats to get things done, and it’s not the same thing as getting legislation done, but you have to be able to work with people,” Hogan said at the time.