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Best Week, Worst Week: Hogan wins re-election; Bar exam sees historic lows

best-worst-111018More than 1.1 million people went to the polls this week and made Gov. Larry Hogan the first two-time Republican governor in Maryland in 60 years while a lot less people signed up for – and passed – the bar exam.

Government affairs writer Bryan P. Sears reported late Tuesday night Hogan entered the campaign as one of the most popular governors in the country and used that rapport with voters to score a 14-point win over Democratic challenger Ben Jealous, becoming the first Republican asked back to Annapolis to govern the state since Theodore McKeldin’s second term ended in 1959.

Hogan won every jurisdiction except Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and Baltimore city, winning 44, 31 and 28 percent of the vote, respectively.

Despite Hogan’s commanding victory, his coattails didn’t extend far enough down the line as Republican incumbents lost key executive races in Anne Arundel and Howard counties. Republican executive candidates in Baltimore and Frederick counties also lost despite Hogan performing well in those jurisdictions.

Political observers said the race showed the difference in the way angry voters, energized over their distain for President Donald Trump, saw Hogan compared with other Republicans on the ballot. Hogan’s easy victory over Jealous speaks to Hogan creating his own identity in a year when Democrats were motivated to vote for Democrats, perhaps justifying their vote for Hogan by voting Democrat everywhere else.

Meanwhile, the State Board of Law Examiners saw historic lows in both in the number of people who took the July Maryland July bar exam, as well as  and the number of passers, according to numbers released this week.

Legal affairs writer Anamika Roy reported Monday some 782 people sat for the exam, the lowest since July 1981, when 741 people sat for the exam (62 percent of takers passed then). In addition, 59 percent of test takers passed the exam this summer, the lowest since July 1986 when the pass rate was 58 percent. The drop in this year’s pass rate appears to be driven by repeat test takers, as the number of first-time takers who passed the July exam was on par with the past two years at 71 percent.

However, only 72 percent of test takers this summer were first-timers, down from last year’s 77 percent. In contrast, 82 percent of bar exam takers were first timers in 2016 and 85 percent were in that boat in 2015, signaling a downward trend in the percentage of first-time takers in recent years, according to data from the board of law examiners.

Among first-time takers at the Maryland schools, 84 percent of graduates from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law passed the July exam. Among graduates of the University of Baltimore, 71 percent of first-time takers passed the test.

The large drop-off in number of test-takers this summer may be attributed to law students in Washington opting to take the Uniform Bar Exam in the District of Columbia, which adopted the test in March 2016. This summer, 1,700 people took the UBE in Washington, a record number of test takers, according to the D.C. Court of Appeals.