Who Are You “Polling” For?
In 25 days Marylanders will go to the polls and select their next governor. The two leading candidates are Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) and Republican businessman Larry Hogan (R). Logic would suggest that Mr. Brown should be very confident in his chances to keep the governor’s house in the firm grasp of Democrats.
Maryland has a voter registration that favors Democrats two-to-one. The latest data show that there are 2,051,319 registered Democrats, 950,195 registered Republicans and 363,859 registered as unaffiliated to any party. In state held offices the Democrats hold two-thirds of the Senate (35-12) and two-thirds of the House of Delegates (98/43). Of the eight congressional districts in Maryland, the Democrats hold seven seats; and, in the U.S. Senate, both of the Old Line State’s senators are Democrats.
Name recognition is another hurdle that Mr. Hogan will need to overcome and overcome quickly. Compared to other Republican candidates, Mr. Hogan is a virtual unknown. In 1994 and 1998 the GOP nominated Ellen Sauerbrey a 16-year veteran of Maryland politics with eight years serving as the minority leader in the House of Delegates.
Name recognition was not an issue for former Gov. Bob Ehrlich. He was a four-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives from southern Baltimore County, which exposed him to the large population centers of Baltimore, Baltimore County and Prince George’s County. Mr. Hogan, on the other hand, is a businessman with little in the way of political notoriety. Even though he is not new to the political scene – his father Larry Hogan held Maryland’s 5th District in the House of Representatives for three terms – Mr. Hogan’s greatest exposure to Maryland voters may have been his unsuccessful bid to unseat Steny Hoyer (D., MD 5).
History may not be on Mr. Hogan’s side. In the last 100 years Republicans have held the state’s highest office only five times. In fact, of the 61 governors, only six were Republicans and only Theodore McKeldin was re-elected.
With all that Mr. Hogan is up against, it would be hard to see why anyone would give him a chance, but the history of this election has yet to be written. The last time the governor’s race was an open seat was when Mr. Ehrlich defeated then Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townshend. Then Gov. Parris Glendenning was in an approval rate free fall just prior to the election of 2002. His approval rating was just 37% weeks before the election with Ms. Townshend’s mirroring the fall with only 50% favorables. Mr. Ehrlich had favorability ratings that continued to climb and received 51% favorability in the same poll. (Source: potomacinc.com.) Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Brown may not be in as poor a position ratings wise, but their administration has many negatives and few positives heading into November.
Looking at the Real Clear Politics average, Mr. Hogan trails Mr. Brown by 12 points. The latest Washington Post – University of Maryland Poll (October 2-5) reveals a trend. The formidable gap of 18 points that existed in June is now down to nine. With most pundits claiming that Mr. Hogan won the first debate earlier this week, he is likely to close that gap even further.
When Mr. Hogan ran for Maryland’s 5th District in 1992, he surprised many with his performance. He received 45% of the voter to Mr. Hoyer’s 55%. Although the results seem quite lopsided, this is by far the closest that Congressman Hoyer has ever come to losing his seat.
Why is this election different? The answer is taxes, taxes and more taxes along with a failure to create jobs. Not only have the last eight years failed to create new jobs, thousands of businesses no longer operate in Maryland. Many of these businesses have left for Virginia and North Carolina due to high rates of taxation and the burden that the innumerable regulations have placed upon them.
Residents of Maryland are also turning against the O’Malley/Brown Administration’s embrace of Common Core education. The failure of the lieutenant governor to properly implement the exchange for the Affordable Healthcare Act will likely be the target of the next debate. The bungled launch of the program lost well over 100 million taxpayer dollars and will be fresh in the minds of voters as the topic once again comes front and center.
Mr. Hogan will also benefit from the inability of Mr. Brown to differentiate his platform from Mr. O’Malley’s. Mr. Brown had a difficult time explaining why he hadn’t acted to implement his proposals for the last eight years while he was lieutenant governor.
Mr. Hogan does have a chance to win this election. Despite the overwhelming advantage that any Democrat has in running for statewide office in Maryland, Mr. Hogan seems to be bringing the right message at the right time.