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During a meeting in Annapolis of the state's top-elected Democrats, U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski talked about what the party needs to do to rebound from losses in the mid-term election. (Michael Dresser/Baltimore Sun)

Still smarting from their defeat in the governor's race this month, Maryland's top elected Democrats gathered in Annapolis on Monday for a two-hour discussion of the party's future.

In a meeting convened by U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, the Democrats began the work of piecing together what went wrong for them in Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown's loss to Republican Larry Hogan.

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Speaking for the group after the meeting, Mikulski said the officials agreed that they need to examine how much the loss was a result of national "head winds" and how much it was a result of conditions in Maryland.

"We feel we've got a lot of homework to do, advice to seek," Mikulski said.

The senator said the top officials know they can learn a lot by listening to grass roots Democrats such as the volunteers who worked on phone banks.

"We want to do an anatomy of what happened," Mikulski said. "It's about what connects to people in their day-to-day lives."

The Democrat officials met in the aftermath of a crushing gubernatorial election defeat in which many of the party's traditional voters defected to Hogan or stayed home. Originally expected to take about an hour, the meeting went on for twice as long.

In addition to losing the governor's race, the Democrats also absorbed losses in both the House and the Senate. Notably, the once reliably Democratic Dundalk area turned its back on the party and gave the GOP a clean sweep in legislative races and a County Council race.

Among the participants in the meeting were U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, Attorney General-elect Brian Frosh, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and U.S. Reps. Chris Van Hollen, Elijah E. Cummings, Donna Edwards, Steny Hoyer, John Delaney, John Sarbanes and Dutch Ruppersberger, according to party political director Chuck Cook.

Not attending was the Democrats' top vote-getter in the Nov. 4 election, Comptroller Peter Franchot. Also missing were Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Montgomery County Executive Isiah "Ike" Leggett and Jan Gardner, recently elected executive in Frederick County.

All had been invited but had scheduling conflicts, Cook said.

Not invited were Gov. Martin O'Malley, the state's dominant Democrat for the past eight years, or Brown. Mikulski limited the invitation list to officials who will be in office through next year.

Mikulski defended her decision to declare herself the titular head of the state Democratic Party, saying that Paul S. Sarbanes had done the same in 2002 when he was the state's senior U.S. senator and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend lost to Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

While Mikulski said Maryland Democrats have to gear up to win the state in the 2016 presidential election, she declined to say whether she would be on the ballot. Mikulski, who has served five terms, would be 80 that year.

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