Republican Gov. Larry Hogan easily won a second term Tuesday, lifted by Democrats who crossed party lines to vote for his centrist approach to governing despite their anger over President Donald Trump.
In defeating Democrat Ben Jealous, Hogan achieved a rare feat in heavily Democratic Maryland.
“Thanks to you, I just became the second Republican governor ever re-elected in the entire … history of our state,” Hogan told a cheering crowd at the Westin hotel in Annapolis.
Hogan won 21 of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions. Statewide, he defeated Jealous by double digits, just as he had led in independent public opinion polls for a year.
Wearing a purple tie, the governor walked onto the stage and promised four more years of bipartisanship and growth.
“Tonight in this deep blue state, in this blue year, with a blue wave, it turns out I can surf,” he said.
Hogan thanked Jealous for running a “spirited” campaign and giving voters a choice.
“While we disagreed on the issues, he has my respect, and I sincerely wish him well in his future pursuits,” Hogan said.
At his party at the Hippodrome in Baltimore, Jealous and running mate Susan Turnbull climbed onto a crowded stage that included Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and told supporters they had conceded.
“We stood up in this campaign to make the future come faster,” Jealous said, ticking off progressive causes he believes gained ground during the race, such as free community college.
Jealous said the “odds were stacked against us,” saying he was at a fundraising disadvantage because he did not take money from large corporations.
Of Hogan, he said, “While we have different visions and values, I have no doubt that he cares deeply about our state and the families who call it home. It is not an easy task to serve as a Republican governor in a blue state. … I pledge to Governor Hogan that as we find points of agreement, I will work with him to get things done for the people of our state.”
During a contentious campaign, Hogan and Jealous fiercely disagreed on the direction of the state and the other’s ability to lead it. Hogan took credit for the state’s growing economy, improved Chesapeake Bay and a bipartisan deal to lower health care costs. He also touted his role in bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax, toll and fee cuts to Marylanders. The governor and his surrogates accused Jealous of being extreme, reckless and a socialist.
Hogan made few promises about what he would do in a second term, except to assure voters he wouldn’t turn hard to the right and that he would push for tax cuts for retirees.
Jealous sought to portray Maryland as sliding backward under Hogan with a stale economy, worsening crime, underfunded schools and an out-of-control opioid epidemic.
The Democrat released more than a dozen detailed proposals for change, including a state system of Medicare for all, debt-free college tuition and legalizing marijuana to pay for universal prekindergarten. Jealous and his allies accused Hogan of being closely tied to Trump’s administration, including his education secretary, Betsy DeVos.
In a state with twice as many Democrats as Republicans, the race turned on Democrats crossing party lines to vote for Hogan.
At New Era Academy in Baltimore’s Cherry Hill neighborhood, several Democrats said they had done just that. Among them was Albert Parks Sr., 66, who said he voted for Hogan but chose Democrats for the rest of the ballot.
Hogan has been a visible governor for the past four years and deserves four more, Parks said.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said. “I’m just a Democrat voting Republican — for governor only.”
Hogan maintained sky-high approval ratings for most of his term — making him one of the most popular governors in the country. After an upset victory over Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in 2014, Hogan bonded with voters during his first year in office, especially during the riot in Baltimore and his victory over cancer.
He appropriated a litany of Democratic initiatives, such as a fracking ban, parental leave for state employees and a “lockbox” for casino revenues to go to public schools. He opposed the Trump administration at some key turns, including pulling back National Guard troops from the Mexican border while the federal government was separating the children of immigrants from their parents.
Jealous, a former leader of the NAACP, venture capitalist and Rhodes Scholar, struggled to raise money for the campaign and for months had little help from national Democratic organizations.
Running as a first-time candidate in the June Democratic primary, Jealous emerged from a crowded field and beat his closest competitor by 10 percentage points. He won the primary by mobilizing a coalition, including unions representing teachers and health care workers, while drawing in small individual contributions from around the country. Where his rivals failed to generate much enthusiasm, Jealous excited his base by advocating for progressive causes.
Hogan’s campaign outspent Jealous’ by about 3 to 1 during the past year. The incumbent governor spent about $12 million — including nearly $9 million on TV advertising. He was helped by more than $3 million in negative advertising against Jealous run by the Republican Governors Association.
Jealous’ campaign, by contrast, could only spend about $3.8 million.
To be sure, Hogan infuriated some voters upset with his decisions, such as canceling the $2.9 billion Red Line project across Baltimore, which he dismissed as a costly boondoggle. But most Maryland voters now tell pollsters they believe the state is headed in the right direction, the opposite of four years ago.
Nevertheless, Hogan will continue to be checked by a majority Democratic legislature. Democrats held onto their supermajority in the state Senate.
Republicans had targeted eight Democratic-held seats in the Senate with the hopes of flipping five to give the GOP enough strength to stop an override of Hogan’s vetoes, but fell short.
The stalemate sets up a power struggle between Hogan and Democrats in the General Assembly over redistricting of the state after the 2020 Census.
Hogan performed strongest on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland, where Republicans typically dominate. But he made inroads into the heavily Democratic jurisdictions of Baltimore and Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
In Prince George’s, Salvation Army worker John Wolfe, 61, said he voted for Hogan, praising the stability he's brought and his handling of the 2015 rioting in Baltimore.
"He hasn't really let this community down," said Wolfe after casting his ballot at the Bladensburg Elementary School. "He's been a great leader."
Hogan won handily in the swing districts of Baltimore County and Howard County, despite losses by the Republican candidates for executive there.
In Baltimore County, Robert Stendal arrived at his Towson polling place Tuesday afternoon to cast his first vote in an election after moving to the United States from Nigeria 24 years ago.
When his ballot was scanned, the poll workers and other voters applauded the smiling Uber and Lyft driver who spent most of his day driving people to polls.
“This is my first time voting,” said Stendal, 43. “I’m so excited to be voting for who I want to vote for.”
But he preferred not to identify his political party, saying he strives to be bipartisan. And his vote proved it: He voted for Democrat Johnny Olszewski for Baltimore County executive while casting his ballot for Hogan.
“I love the guy,” he said of Hogan. “He’s done a great job. He’s a very good guy who can work both sides.”
Hogan’s governorship has been helped by improving economic conditions nationally. Since he took office, Maryland has added about 145,000 jobs and the unemployment rate has dropped from 5.7 percent to 4.2 percent.
The governor credits his policies — from changing Maryland’s welcome signs to say “Open for Business” to eliminating regulations and cutting taxes and fees — with helping in the recovery.