Russ Mason, a gas-fitting contractor, is a Democrat. But his party affiliation was inconsequential as he went to the polls in Baltimore's Madison Park neighborhood and registered a spirited, sweeping protest against the last two terms of Democratic rule in Annapolis.
The 65-year-old voted for Republican Larry Hogan for governor and every other nonincumbent — "there might be a judge or two I screwed up on, but that's it," he said — if only to vent his anger at outgoing Gov. Martin O'Malley and the party's nominee to succeed him, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown.
"They all need a vacation — a permanent one," Mason said.
Mason was far from the only Marylander who seemed to be driven by a fervent desire for change. As voters made their choice between Hogan and Brown, many in both parties from around the state said they wanted to bounce the ruling Democrats from the State House.
In Severna Park, Mary Salsich, 62, voted for a Republican for governor for the first time in her life. Salsich, a school administrator, said she picked Hogan because of the negative campaign run by Brown.
"He just bashed Hogan," she said. "I wasn't happy with his campaign."
Democrat Richard Karoll, a 44-year-old restaurant owner from Patterson Park, said he was motivated to vote for Hogan because he sees little results from his high tax burden. Despite battling high property tax bills, he said, he is frustrated with high crime and trash around the park.
"Where are my tax dollars going? Because they sure aren't protecting me," Karoll said after casting his ballot at Hampstead Hill Academy on Eastern Avenue. "It's time for a change."
To be sure, Brown was the choice of many voters on Election Day. But many voting for him said they did so more because he's a Democrat than personal or political appeal.
As she does in every election, retired teacher Debra Becker went to the polls out of a sense of civic responsibility. Then she dutifully cast her vote for Brown — a candidate she does not particularly admire — because she couldn't imagine voting for the Republican alternative.
"Is Anthony Brown somebody who has managed to arouse great thrall on my part? No." said Becker, 67, who lives in the Leisure World retirement community in Silver Spring. "I think Anthony Brown is a lackluster candidate who espouses some basic, decent Democratic values. I do appreciate his record of service. Maybe he will surprise me."
Other Democrats expressed a similar sentiment. For them, the election was less about Brown than about duty to party and deference to history — their own and the state's — favoring Democratic candidates.
"I always have voted for Democrats," said William Howard, a 53-year-old exterminator from Capitol Heights in Brown's home county of Prince George's. "Just Democrat. I only vote Democrat," Howard said. He said he doesn't know much about Larry Hogan, but he knows he's a Republican and therefore "what I do know, I don't like."
Brown, who was vying to become the state's first African-American governor, is a veteran who served as a judge advocate general in the Army and Army Reserve. His campaign included a promise to fund full-day prekindergarten for all children, a pledge that resonated with some voters.
"They talk about talking to the baby in the womb, so if that's going to help, don't you think preschool will help? That's very important," said Brown supporter Vivian Adigun of Baltimore.
But for many, discontent with the status quo ran deep.
Rhonda Malkowski, 47, is a lifelong Republican, which she said makes her unique in Dundalk. Her sense of the state's direction was typical of Republicans interviewed. "Maryland's overtaxed," said Malkowski, a clinic coordinator for Johns Hopkins Hospital. "We're just overtaxed."
Dundalk resident Gene Roberts, 47, a warehouse worker for a bread company who is not registered with either major party, said he voted for Hogan because Hogan's platform reminded him of the views of former GOP Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., whom he liked.
The sense of Maryland heading in the wrong direction was expressed by some in both parties. Since Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state by more than 2-1, Hogan was counting on winning support of a significant number of Democrats and independents.
Gloria Millard, 66, is a registered Democrat who voted for Hogan. The retired financial services worker from Abingdon in Harford County said she liked his conservative approach to the economy and moderation on social issues. "He has a more common-sense approach and he's a businessman. We need more business people in government and fewer lawyers," she said.
Even if he won, Brown faced a delicate task to distinguish himself from O'Malley without appearing disloyal.
That may explain why voters — even those who voted for the Democrat — weren't always enthusiastic about their choice.
"It was hard for him to draw a contrast with the incumbent when he is part of the administration," said pollster Steve Raabe, president of OpinionWorks of Annapolis. "I think the problem for the Brown campaign has been that they didn't have a theme, a vision to get his voters excited," Raabe said.
Baltimore Sun reporters Erin Cox, Scott Dance, Michael Dresser, Alison Knezevich, Jonathan Pitts, Catherine Rentz and Yvonne Wenger contributed to this article.