No coattails: Maryland voters backed Republican Gov. Hogan, but also showed their disdain for Trump

Republican candidates who hitched their hopes to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s coattails learned Tuesday that his bipartisan appeal was not enough to cloak them from Democratic disdain for President Donald Trump.

While the Republican governor easily defeated Democrat Ben Jealous in the heavily Democratic state, Hogan’s GOP allies did not fare as well in county executive and General Assembly races — including those the governor worked hard to sway.

In fact, those losses dealt a blow to the state GOP’s hopes of loosening the Democrats’ control of the legislature and may have hurt the Republican Party’s chances to retain the governor’s mansion when Hogan’s term-limited tenure ends in four years.

Political scientists say Democratic voters were motivated by their aversion to Donald Trump to turn out in large numbers in Maryland and across the nation. The question in Maryland was whether antipathy toward Trump would harm Hogan and other Republicans.

For Hogan — who has distanced himself from Trump — the answer was clearly “no.” His fellow Republicans were not so fortunate.

“Voters viewed Larry Hogan as Larry Hogan, and they were willing to vote for him, but that does not mean they were willing to vote for Republicans overall,” said Todd Eberly, a political scientist at St. Mary’s College. “Marylanders may like the divided government that they have right now.”

The GOP fell short in its “Fight for Five” effort to flip seats in the Maryland Senate to deprive Democrats of the supermajority that allows them to override Hogan’s vetoes. And at least five House Republicans lost their seats, according to preliminary results.

Two statewide Republican Party standouts — Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh and Howard County Executive Allan Kittlemanwere defeated by two rising players on a newly replenished Democratic bench: Calvin Ball in Howard and Steuart Pittman in Anne Arundel.

In addition, Democrat Johnny Olszewski Jr. won the Baltimore County executive race by defeating state insurance commissioner Al Redmer Jr., a candidate Hogan stumped heavily for in the final weeks.

In other words, Hogan’s coattails were quite short.

“Democrats are all fired up, and they hate Trump and want to send a message to Washington,” said Dan Nataf, a political science professor at Anne Arundel Community College.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Hogan offered a similar assessment.

“We had President Trump say the election should be about him even though he’s not on the ballot. In Maryland that’s exactly what happened. It was a repudiation of the president, who lost this state by 30 points,” the governor said.

“People came out and expressed their frustration against just about all Republicans in our state with the exception of us,” Hogan said. “Last race we had the biggest coattails of any Republican ever. This time we had a pretty big drag.”

Interviews with dozens of voters on Election Day confirmed that many Democrats were able to distinguish Hogan from Trump while still wanting to send a message about a president they deeply dislike.

After supporting Democrat Anthony Brown for governor four years ago, Larry Brooks of Prince George’s County said this time he voted for Hogan.

“Mr. Hogan’s been getting things done,” said Brooks, 57, who works for the federal government.

With the exception of one Prince George’s County Council race, Brooks said he cast the rest of his votes for Democrats.

He said President Trump was on his mind as he voted. The president, Brooks said, was “absolutely not doing a good job.”

But that wouldn’t prevent him from supporting some Republicans he doesn’t associate with Trump.

John Wolfe agreed. The 61-year-old Salvation Army worker voted for Hogan but supported Democratic Attorney General Brian Frosh over Republican Craig Wolf.

“I support who I feel will be best for the job,” said Wolfe after voting at Bladensburg Elementary School. He said he believes Hogan has helped stabilize Baltimore after the 2015 rioting. “He’s been a great leader,” Wolfe said.

Sonia Eaddy is president of the Poppleton Community Association in West Baltimore. The 54-year-old “liberal Democrat” is not happy that Hogan canceled the Red Line, which would have benefited her neighborhood. And she said the new bus system implemented by his administration has been “a big mess.”

But she voted for Hogan anyway – saying she likes how he decisively closed the city jail and that he has been trying to hold school system officials accountable for their spending.

“So many of our youth are out here selling drugs, getting high and having babies,” said Eaddy, who blames the school system for graduating students who are not ready to move on. “He came in as a businessman, not a politician.”

As for Jealous, she said she didn’t know enough about the former NAACP president and that the one impression she did have came from when television news aired him cursing at reporter for asking a question.

“He sounded like Donald Trump to me,” she said. And no leader, she said, should display that type of temperament.

Ben Secrist of Elkridge in Howard County said there is now a stark divide between Democrats like him and Republicans.

“That line in the sand just has me kind of voting out of spite against Republicans,” said Seacrist, 28. “I begrudgingly voted all Democrat.”

Trump is definitely the reason, he said.

Bill Healy, a Democrat in Carroll County, said he wanted to send more Democrats to Congress — including Jesse Colvin, who was challenging GOP Rep. Andy Harris — to hold Trump in check.

“Donald Trump is really on the ballot and what I would call Trumpian values versus traditional American values,” Healy said. “Because I am repulsed by Trump’s values, I felt it was more important to come out here and vote more Democratic than I normally vote, even though I am a Democrat.”

At the state level, however, Healy supported Hogan.

“Generally he has done a reasonably good job, not that I agree with him on everything,” Healy said. “Ben Jealous, I think, is probably more to the left than I am. I’m not sure that some of the things he’s promised are really doable economically.”

In Elkridge, David Blackman, 77, voted a straight Democratic ticket for the same reasons as many others.

“I’m afraid any Republican votes will be seen as supporting Trump,” said Blackman, who said he had “no problem” with either Hogan or Kittleman despite voting against them.

For Diarra O. Robertson, a professor of history and government at Bowie State University, the message to Maryland Republicans was clear.

“Maryland is still, overall, a Democratic state,” Robertson said. “Hogan has done a good job of not outwardly positioning himself as a Trump Republican while others have openly embraced [Trump’s] agenda. It’s not surprising that he wasn’t able to carry other Republican candidates along with him.”

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Luke Broadwater, Ian Duncan, Jon Kelvey and Jean Marbella contributed to this article.

jean.marbella@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jean_marbella

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