This November, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown will go head-to-head with local developer and real estate executive Larry Hogan in Maryland’s gubernatorial election – fighting for a seat which will be open for the first time in 12 years. Harris, Jones, & Malone has your insight into Maryland’s political climate, but before we analyze the race, it’s worth taking a look at how we got here.
In the run up to the June 24th primary, both Brown and Hogan faced competitive challenges from within their respective parties. On the Democratic side, Brown went up against Attorney General Doug Gansler and Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur. While pundits expected a close race, Brown won a resounding (and early) victory on primary night, taking over 51 percent of the vote and twice as many total votes as his closest competitor (the Attorney General, with just over 24 percent). To the surprise of many experts, Brown won convincingly by carrying 20 out of Maryland’s 24 counties, and proved himself as a strong fundraiser with $12 million raised over the 2014 cycle.
On the Republican side, the primary field initially seemed wide-open, with Harford County Executive David Craig, Charles County perennial candidate Charles Lollar, Anne Arundel County Delegate Ron George, and Hogan facing off for the right to head up the Republican ticket. Craig, initially considered the front-runner, ran a surprisingly weak campaign in which he struggled to raise funds or gain traction, leaving an opening for Hogan; a self-funding Anne Arundel commercial real estate broker with strong ties to local Republican operatives who had spent three years building his “Change Maryland” organization in advance of a possible gubernatorial run. Thanks to a personal loan of $500,000, and the inability of his opponents to reach Republican primary voters, Hogan’s campaign cruised to victory with just over 43 percent of the vote.
Brown is the favorite in this race, and his advantages will prove difficult to overcome for the Hogan team. Brown’s greatest strengths may be his military background and his reputation as a moderate, results-oriented Democrat from his time in the legislature and as Lieutenant Governor. Brown interrupted a promising legal and political career to serve a tour of duty in Iraq, which has since played a large role in the shaping of his narrative as an elected official. And as Lieutenant Governor, has taken the lead on bi-partisan issues such as using public-private partnerships to strengthen our infrastructure, expanding access to universal pre-k, and improving services for domestic violence victims.
Brown has high name identification, a 2-to-1 edge in Democrat vs. Republican voter registration, and the advantage of an increasingly diverse Maryland electorate who may view the opportunity to elect the state’s first African American Governor with some excitement. So far, he has proved himself to be a disciplined campaigner, and has united the state’s Democrats behind his effort.
No stranger to politics, Larry Hogan has long been an influential leader of Maryland’s Republican Party, and he has already shown signs that he will run a tough, aggressive campaign, focused almost entirely on criticisms of the current administration and a message of lower taxes and regulations.
Hogan cut his teeth as a top advisor to his father, Larry Hogan Sr., during his time as Prince George’s County Executive. He also has the advantage of drawing on his experiences as a former candidate for Congress and as the Secretary of Appointments during the last Republican Administration. Although he has attempted to avoid social issues (which may cause problems with his base), Hogan’s message of tax cuts and cutting government services played well during the primary, and he has shown signs of sticking to that message in the General Election. With his campaign’s purchase of Change Maryland, he has an active social media presence which may help him activate the party’s conservative base.
Hogan, however, faces significant challenges in this race. He has faced accusations, from the Washington Post and others, that his campaign lacks substance on policy issues.
He may also face significant hurdles when it comes to campaign resources. Accepting public financing led to an infusion of cash for his campaign ($2.6 million) but also meant that he cannot raise or spend additional funds through his campaign account. Instead, he will have to rely on the Maryland Republican party, along with state and national advocacy groups (who may show reluctance to invest in a less-than-competitive race). He begins the general election with a deficit of over $742,000 in his campaign account – the result of over-spending during the primary. According to the Washington Post, he has already had to spend time raising funds to settle that balance instead of raising funds that could go towards the General Election. Brown, who does not face a similar deficit, will almost certainly have more resources to reach both Democratic and undecided voters in the closing days of the race.
Hogan must convince independent and conservative Democratic voters that he will not be a traditional Republican and can move past the criticisms of his campaign and show voters which changes, exactly, he would implement as Governor. And he must recruit a significant number of these voters (who are not as reliable as their staunch Democratic and Republican counterparts) to turn out on Election Day. Will Larry Hogan be able to replicate his primary success? Will Anthony Brown be able to carry his momentum forward, stay disciplined, and use his built-in advantages to win the Governor’s seat? November’s just around the corner, and Harris, Jones, & Malone will be there to provide you with insight and analysis from today through Election Day.
Sources: The Washington Post, Maryland State Board of Elections
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