TOWSON — Maryland’s two major party candidates for governor went to Baltimore County on Wednesday touting endorsements in an effort to bolster support in a key jurisdiction.
Gov. Larry Hogan’s event featuring an endorsement by Democratic Sen. Jim Brochin, and a hastily scheduled counter-event by Democrat Ben Jealous touting endorsements from Rep. John Sarbanes and others, underscore the importance of Baltimore County — especially for Republicans — in the 2018 election.
Hogan said the jurisdiction “helped put us over the top” in 2014 and expressed hope for a similar result in November.
“Baltimore County has been important to us for the last four years,” said Hogan. “It was important in the last election. It’s one of the largest county and it’s a county that has been in play — Republicans have won, Democrats have won.”
For Hogan, Brochin represents another Democrat in a list of more than four-dozen current and former officials, to back the Republican.
“This is the first Republican I’ve ever supported in my career,” said Brochin, who represents a majority Republican district and has been occasionally criticized by his own party as being too willing to vote with Republicans in Annapolis. “I’m a Democrat. I’m pretty disenchanted with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. I understand it. I think it’s a natural response to (President) Donald Trump but I think they’re wrong.”
Brochin, who lost his bid to be the Democratic nominee for Baltimore County executive by 17 votes, said a Jealous victory would result in “a $22 billion tax increase” for residents — a reference to an estimate released earlier this year by legislative analysts reviewing potential costs of a single-payer health care model similar to that backed by Jealous.
Baltimore County — home to the largest number of registered Republicans in the state — is key to the campaign and a second term for Hogan. While Democrats’ 2-to-1 advantage among registered voters in the county is practically identical to the state’s voter registration, the county has shown a willingness to be more purple in its politics than traditionally blue Maryland.
Baltimore County helped elect Hogan governor in 2014 as it did Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in 2002. Hogan won Baltimore County by more than 53,000 votes and the state with more than 65,000 votes. In 2002, when Ehrlich became the first Republican elected governor in nearly four decades, he won his home jurisdiction over Kathleen Kennedy Townsend by nearly 65,000 votes, representing almost all of 66,000-vote margin of victory.
Four years later, Ehrlich won Baltimore County again but only by 8,500 votes on the way to losing to Martin O’Malley by nearly 117,000 votes in what was a bad year nationally for Republicans.
Similarly, Jealous and Democrats are counting on a “blue wave” and anger with Trump, who is wildly unpopular in the state, to swamp Hogan.
Jealous and Democrats know they don’t need to win Baltimore County to take the governor’s mansion; a close race in Baltimore County with a surge in Democratic support in Baltimore city, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties could provide enough votes.
But Ehrlich in 2006 did little to support his party’s candidates in the Baltimore County, including a no-name challenger for county executive, allowing then-County Executive Jim Smith to shift his focus to helping O’Malley.
Hogan seems to have learned from Ehrlich’s missteps and has made sure to spend time in the county supporting Al Redmer, the Maryland Insurance Commissioner running for county executive, as well giving as an early endorsement for Del. Christian Miele in his challenge of Democratic Sen. Kathy Klausmeier.
Similarly, Jealous is looking to shore up support in a county he won in June by capturing more than 41 percent of the votes in a nine-way primary.
“There’s lots of voters here who, like me, are small business people, who invest in small businesses, who put their efforts every day into growing them. I’ve spent a lot of time going around talking to them,” said Jealous. “We will compete for every vote in this county and we frankly start off in a much better place than the party did four years ago. So we’re confident we’re going to keep building on our strength in the county.”
In addition to an endorsement from Sarbanes, Jealous released statements of support from Baltimore County Executive Donald Mohler, who took over the top spot in the county after the death of Kevin Kamenetz, and Councilwoman Vicki Almond, who was also unsuccessful in her bid to become county executive. Neither Mohler nor Almond appeared at the announcement.
“Ben Jealous is the forward-looking leader Baltimore County families need as governor at this moment in time,” said Mohler, a longtime Catonsville resident, in a statement. “With skyrocketing health care premiums and underfunded schools, Ben is the entrepreneurial leader and innovative thinker who can reclaim the promise of Maryland.”