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Republicans are gaining hope of taking the governor's mansion in November following the results of the latest poll put out by the party, and if history is any indication he might just have a shot at beating Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

The latest poll commissioned by the Maryland Republican Party put Larry Hogan just 3 percentage points behind Brown – 45 percent to 42 percent – with 9 percent undecided. The poll has a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.

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Maryland has only a 44-year history of lieutenant governors under the present system. The office was created in 1970 by a constitutional amendment. Prior to that, the lieutenant governor also served as the president of the Senate. Brown is just the eighth person to serve in the revised role. But over that period, no lieutenant governor has gone on to replace their boss in a General Election. Of course, there's only been one Republican governor over that same period, and Robert L. Ehrlich's running mate never had an opportunity to vie for the top spot because Ehrlich got the Republican nomination for a second term, but failed to keep his office in the General Election, losing to Martin O'Malley.

Ehrlich earned the governor's mansion by defeating Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who had served as lieutenant governor under Parris Glendening. With a record as a former member of the state House of Delegates and an eight-year career in the U.S. House representing the state's 2nd District, the charismatic Ehrlich appealed to many voters across party lines, but even with that big advantage he managed only a 51 percent to 48 percent victory at over Townsend.

O'Malley, a career politician with big name recognition from his job as mayor of Baltimore and a charm that matched Ehrlich's appeal, easily regained those votes when he ran for governor eight years ago.

Of the other lieutenant governors that have served, all either did not run for election or were ousted in the Democratic primary.

Blair Lee III served as the state's first lieutenant governor. He also served as acting governor from 1977 to 1979 after then governor Marvin Mandel abdicated his powers. Democrats, however, chose Harry Hughes in the primary over Lee. Hughes went on to serve until January, 1987.

Hughes had two lieutenant governors, Samuel Bogley during his first term and J. Joseph Curran Jr. during his second term. Curran chose to switch his political path and became the state's Attorney General in the 1986 election, and Democrats chose William Donald Schaefer as their pick for governor that election year. Schaefer, another Baltimore mayor, easily won election, but when his lieutenant governor, Melvin Steinberg, tried to rise to the position voters rejected him, choosing instead Glendening in the Democratic Primary.

Historically then, no lieutenant governor has ever gone on to become governor. But in the three cases where they tried, twice it was the Democrats who voted for a different candidate who later went on to win and once it was all voters who decided the issue.

On the public approval scale, Brown is probably leaning more toward the Townsend end of the scale. Problems with the state's roll out of its health exchange and voter dissatisfaction over taxes have a lot of people not wanting what they perceive as another four – or eight – years of O'Malley style politics. But Brown still enjoys almost a two-to-one margin of registered Democrats over registered Republicans. And too many people across the state still vote based only on party affiliation.

In order for Hogan to overcome that immense obstacle, he'll have to draw at least as many independents and Democrats as Ehrlich did, and that doesn't seem too likely. Outside of the Republican sponsored poll, most polls still give Brown a double-digit lead in the race.

Hogan has history on his side in the fact that no lieutenant governor has gone on to become governor. But unless Hogan picks up his game considerably before November, at the end of the day it will likely be Brown who makes history by becoming the first to go from lieutenant governor to governor in Maryland.

Jim Lee is the Carroll County Times' Editor. Email him at jim.lee@carrollcountytimes.com.

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