Gov. Larry Hogan. If he's not the most popular governor in America, he's close to it. Mr. Hogan seems to have figured out the formula for being a Republican governor in a deep blue state — stay moderate on the environment, don't touch social issues with a 10-foot pole, fight with the Democrats enough to keep things interesting but not enough to gum up the workings of the state, champion criminal justice reform, talk about cutting taxes (without actually doing it) and run for cover whenever anyone utters the words "Donald Trump."
Catherine Pugh. The former city councilwoman and state senator achieved a life-long dream this year with her election as mayor of Baltimore, her adopted hometown. She emerged from a crowded field — including former Mayor Sheila Dixon — as the one candidate who could draw support across Baltimore's racial, economic and geographic lines, finishing first or second in every precinct in the city in April's all-important Democratic primary. She comes to office at a time of challenge — the city has still not coalesced around a vision for addressing the inequalities exposed by the Freddie Gray riots, and the work of reforming the Baltimore Police Department is in its infancy. But she brings to the task a positive attitude and a deep Rolodex of contacts in Baltimore, Annapolis and Washington.
Chris Van Hollen. Maryland's new junior senator emerged from a bitter and bruising primary fight unscathed and coasted to victory in the November general election. Already he's being tapped for leadership in the Senate, including the job of heading the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which will give him the opportunity to deepen his national political network and build up chits with his new colleagues. And getting a plum seat on the Appropriations Committee helps ensure that Maryland keeps some of the influence over federal spending it was set to lose with the retirement of Sen. Barbara Mikulski.
Allan Kittleman. The Howard County executive gets high marks this year for his handling of two difficult situations: the flooding of Ellicott City and the scandal involving racially insensitive remarks by the county's sheriff. He took a hands-on approach to the flood recovery, marshalling local and state resources to help the historic community rebuild quickly. And he helped lead the bi-partisan condemnation that resulted in the resignation of James F. Fitzgerald and his replacement by the widely respected former Howard police chief, Bill McMahon.
Anthony Brown. The former lieutenant governor completed his comeback from the political wilderness just two years after a devastating loss to Mr. Hogan in the governor's race. Mr. Brown went back to basics in his successful run for Congress this year with a tight-knit, grassroots campaign built on personal contact with the voters in his Prince George's County district.
Peter Franchot. As much as we hate to admit it, Mr. Franchot is winning. His picayune quests to put air conditioning in schools and to force them to open after Labor Day (issues with virtually no connection to his actual job, incidentally) have wound up front and center on the state's agenda, thanks to Mr. Hogan's willingness to: a. pander to the public on a politically popular issue; b. stick it to Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz; c. maintain a second vote on the Board of Public Works; or d. all of the above.
Marilyn Mosby. The national spotlight that shone so bright for her in 2015 started to burn in 2016. Her failure to secure any convictions against any of the officers involved in Freddie Gray's death led many to question her judgment if not her motives. A New York Times Magazine story detailing the fallout on her personal life didn't help, nor did one in the Wall Street Journal documenting a drop in the felony conviction rate since she took office.
Martin O'Malley. Fun fact: Former Gov. Martin O'Malley ran for president this year. You may have missed it, since he dropped out of the race about a nanosecond after the results came in from the Iowa caucuses. On the plus side, he doesn't need to worry about whether he blew his chance for a spot in Hillary Clinton's cabinet.
Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Aside from watching more than a dozen mayoral candidates running against her record, the low point of 2016 for the outgoing mayor would have to be the Department of Justice's report finding pervasive unconstitutional practices in the city police department. Ms. Rawlings-Blake made repairing police-community relations the centerpiece of her crime-fighting strategy, yet every single incident the DOJ catalogued occurred under her watch.
Women in politics. Maryland has long been hailed as a leader in electing women to office, but for the first time since the early 1970s, it will field no women in its congressional delegation. Rep. Donna Edwards, who lost to Mr. Van Hollen in the primary, was right to call attention to that fact.
Larry Hogan. OK, maybe it's a bit of a stretch, but we would be remiss not to mention a couple of ants at his picnic. First, there's no sign of a Hogan coattails effect — despite Del. Kathy Szeliga's effort to plaster "Hogan endorsed" on every yard sign she could, she performed about as well against Mr. Van Hollen as Senator Mikulski's last challenger did against her. And second, running away from Mr. Trump looks a little riskier now that he's the president-elect. Maryland's hope for landing the FBI headquarters now comes down to a question: Whom does Mr. Trump hate more — the Maryland Republican governor who disavowed him or the Virginia Democratic governor who is Ms. Clinton's BFF?