A blue wave on the Chesapeake Bay

Election night was a big night for Democrats and Democratic values in Maryland. Much of the media coverage has focused on Larry Hogan winning re-election to the Governor’s Mansion. And it’s true, by essentially running as a moderate Democrat and claiming credit for the work of Democrats in the legislature, Mr. Hogan pulled off a significant victory for Republicans. But it’s also undeniable that Ben Jealous changed the conversation in Maryland by proposing aggressive solutions to big problems that confront our state; among them: the lack of access to health care, the need for more investments in public schools and the vital importance of stemming the opioid crisis.

If you look down the ballot, though, Maryland experienced a massive blue wave. In the House of Delegates, under the leadership of Speaker Michael E. Busch, we picked up as many as seven seats. That includes Michele Guyton’s victory in a northern Baltimore County district that most pundits had written off as an impossible seat for Democrats to win. The GOP spent millions trying to break the Democratic supermajority in the Senate and fell far short. They picked up one seat instead of the five they were aiming for, and Katie Fry Hester will become the first Democrat elected to represent a portion of Carroll County since 1994.

The next generation of Republican candidates for governor was wiped out, as Democrats romped to victories in county executive races in Howard and Anne Arundel counties. Calvin Ball and Steuart Pittman both won races against well-funded incumbents who should have easily won re-election, according to conventional wisdom. Jan Gardner held onto the county executive seat in Frederick County, a county that is now clearly trending blue. And with Angela Alsobrooks, the first woman ever elected to be Prince George’s County executive, and John Olszewski Jr., who ran an insurgent primary campaign and won a convincing general election victory to become Baltimore County executive, Democrats have built a bench of exciting, engaged leaders who will have executive experience.

Even in local council and commissioner races Democrats had astounding wins. We held our majorities on the county councils in Howard and Baltimore counties, flipped the Anne Arundel County Council, and picked up a smattering of commissioner seats in more exurban and rural counties. A Democrat even won the state’s attorney race in Anne Arundel County, traditionally a more conservative jurisdiction, over a Republican incumbent. This is all in keeping with the Democratic sweeps in municipal elections in Frederick and Annapolis last year.

I suspect a lot of Republicans on the ground are upset that Governor Hogan didn’t do more to help in down ballot races. The governor, it turns out, has no coattails. Nor does he have much of a policy agenda. And I would suspect many Republicans in the state will push him to move further to the right now that he’s a lame duck and doesn’t need to worry about re-election in four years.

For my part, I hope he doesn’t. I hope he recognizes that Maryland voters repudiated right wing policies at the ballot box. I hope he continues to sign our Democratic policies that have been moving Maryland forward. Because over the past four years, the real progress in Maryland has been made by Democrats in the legislature: expanding paid sick leave to 700,000 more Marylanders; banning fracking; enacting strong gun safety laws; protecting the education funding coming from casinos with a constitutional lock box; our down payment on free community college. It has been Democratic members of the General Assembly who set this agenda.

Governor Hogan was happy to come along later and take credit for each of these initiatives. But in the end, who receives credit is not as important as who writes the law. If past is prologue, Governor Hogan will continue to sit on the sidelines and sign our bills. Democrats in the legislature will continue to write the policies that are moving Maryland forward. And it’s the policy that matters.

Del. Eric Luedtke (ericformaryland@gmail.com) is the incoming chairman of the House Democratic Caucus; he represents District 14 in Montgomery County.

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