Taking his statewide "thank-you tour" through the once-Democratic bastion of Dundalk on Thursday, Republican Gov.-elect Larry Hogan was hailed as a conquering hero at the Boulevard Diner.
Hogan received as much gratitude as he gave while spending over an hour shaking hands, posing for pictures and exchanging embraces with supporters in a part of Baltimore County where he ran up the score against Democrat Anthony G. Brown last week.
Steve and Heather Domanski drove from Glen Burnie for the event and had their pictures taken with Maryland's next governor.
Steve Domanski, 27, said he and his wife, 26, were relieved at Hogan's victory.
"We were very worried about it because we are about to have a baby," he said. "We thought we'd have to move out of the state. Now we're very hopeful that everything's going to work out."
Sharon Kyle, 63, a lifelong Dundalk Democrat, broke with her party this year to vote a straight Republican ticket topped by Hogan — largely because of the economic stagnation of the county's east side.
"We need a resurrection," she said. "I believe in him. He's a good speaker. He's very sincere."
It was voters such as Kyle who helped bring about a political revolution in Dundalk and Essex, an area where local Democrats often voteRepublican in top races but reliably return Democrats to Annapolis and Towson.
Not this year. East-side Republicans captured a state Senate seat, three delegate seats and a post on the County Council that had been held by Democrats for generations. Meanwhile, Hogan took 80 percent of the vote or more in some Dundalk precincts.
If Dundalk was loving Hogan on Thursday evening, Hogan was loving Dundalk right back.
"It was always clear to me that Democratic voters [here] were very conservative — what we used to call Reagan Democrats — and I always hoped that one day they would see the light and vote their own interests," said Sauerbrey, who lost again to Gov. Parris N. Glendening in 1998.
Among those who may have benefited from Hogan's popularity was County Councilman-elect Todd Crandell. He said he believes he would have won on his own but that having such a strong top of the ticket turned victory into a 62 percent-37 percent landslide.
Crandell said the political climate was far different from 2002, when Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was elected governor but Democrats remained entrenched locally.
"I don't think you had the level of dissatisfaction that people are feeling now," Crandell said.
Savas Tsakiris, co-owner of the popular eatery on Merritt Boulevard, said Thursday evening's crowd was the largest since the restaurant hosted Guy Fieri, host of the Food Network show "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," in January.
Tsakiris, a Republican, said the reception for Hogan was just as enthusiastic. He estimated that 300 people packed the place in addition to the full house of customers.
"I like the fact he is a businessman and he's going to do something about running the state a little different than the politicians do," Tsakiris said.
Hogan's stop in Dundalk was supposed to be his second in Baltimore County on Thursday. The campaign canceled a scheduled appearance in Perry Hall because the intended site was across from the middle school attended by missing 12-year-old Jasmine Leighlin Baker. Campaign aides said a celebration there seemed inappropriate.