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Elections

Wes Moore’s 30-point landslide improved over previous Democratic candidates’ margins in every corner of Maryland

By the time voting ended in Maryland’s election this month, it had been clear for weeks Democrat Wes Moore would likely come away with a historic victory.

The full scope of that win is just now coming into focus.

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While mail-in and provisional ballots are still being tallied in some counties, Moore is on track to win by a landslide of at least 31 percentage points, the largest margin since Democrat William Donald Schaefer won 82% of the vote in 1986 for the first of his two terms as governor.

Facing far-right Republican Dan Cox on Nov. 8, Moore didn’t just win by having massive support in the largest and Democratic-heavy areas like Baltimore City and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

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He also improved over previous Democrats’ margins in every county compared to the years that moderate Republican Gov. Larry Hogan won his races — and in nearly every county for all of the last two decades, when another moderate Republican, Bob Ehrlich, was on the ballot three times.

“The distinction between Cox and Hogan was abundantly clear to voters,” said David Lublin, professor and chair of the Department of Government at American University in Washington.

For Moore, a first-time candidate and Maryland’s first Black governor-elect, it was the result of an aggressive campaign that he’s said reached all kinds of urban, rural and suburban voters.

“This is how I plan on governing. We are going to be everywhere. We are going to be in every part of the state,” Moore said in an interview just before Election Day during a campaign stop in Prince George’s. “I want Marylanders to get used to this pace, because this will be the pace coming from the governor’s office for the next eight years.”

Moore-Biden and Trump-Cox

The Moore/Cox race at times touched on the last presidential election, and the results in the governor’s race will end up largely mirroring that 2020 matchup between Democratic President Joe Biden and former Republican President Donald Trump.

Biden stumped with Moore in the state twice this year, including a rally in Bowie the night before Election Day.

And Cox traveled to Trump’s estate in Florida for a fundraiser in late October, even as political observers predicted his association with the former president would doom him in Maryland, where Trump lost two years ago by 33 percentage points.

Now, with some votes still uncounted, Moore is slightly under Biden’s 65% statewide win in 2020, while Cox is slightly ahead of Trump’s margin from that year.

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Moore is on track to perform just about the same or slightly worse than Biden in some of the largest Democratic counties, while outperforming Biden in some of the smaller, more conservative areas.

In the counties with the highest percent of registered Republicans — Allegany, Carroll, Garrett and Queen Anne’s — Moore lost by an average of 31 percentage points, but that was 1 to 4 percentage points better than Biden in 2020.

It’s unclear if those trends will continue, as each of those counties has trended more Republican over the years.

For example, Allegany County, in the western panhandle, had just about an equal number of Republicans and Democrats in 2002. It now has about twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats.

Democratic governor candidates before Moore have consistently lost ground there and in westernmost Garrett County — more than anywhere else in the state. Moore’s roughly 10 percentage point drop in those counties compared to former Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley in 2006 were the largest drops in any county in any other year in the last two decades.

Rebounding from the Hogan years

While Moore overperformed overall previous Democratic governor candidates going back decades, the starkest jump appears when the results are compared to Hogan, who observers say had a unique ability to win and maintain popularity as a Republican in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1.

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Moore had a larger share of the vote than 2018 Democratic nominee Ben Jealous and 2014 nominee Anthony Brown — and Cox, conversely, had a smaller share of the vote than Hogan — in every county.

The most extreme swing compared to four years ago was in Talbot County, where Moore turned a county that went 77% for Hogan and 21% for Jealous to one that went only 46% for Cox and 51% for Moore. With only 17,125 votes, though, that was only a small piece of the statewide pie.

The largest bellwethers were in the Baltimore suburbs.

The counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard all shifted toward the Democratic nominee by at least 23% compared to both 2018 and 2014, making the solidly Hogan counties now majority Moore counties.

Of those, Howard had the most significant shift. After Hogan won 56% of the vote there in 2018, Cox secured only 27% this year.

Democratic County Executive Calvin Ball easily earned a second term, beating former Republican County Executive Allan Kittleman, who embodied more of the Hogan brand of politics than Cox’s.

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The results there follow a trend of the county growing and becoming more Democratic at a rate higher than almost anywhere else in the state. Since 2002, Democrats have seen a 20% voter registration swing in their direction — behind only Charles County’s 31% leftward swing.

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“Howard is increasingly looking a lot more like Montgomery,” Lublin said, noting the county’s relatively high levels of education and racial diversity.

Cox performed the worst of any statewide Republican

Cox is also on track to have won the least amount of votes out of any of the four statewide Republican candidates this year — and across every county.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, who lost the state comptroller’s race to Democratic Del. Brooke Lierman, was on track to win more than 112,000 additional votes than Cox, making his loss a still sizable 21 percentage points.

Glassman also performed better than Republican attorney general nominee Michael Peroutka, who lost to Brown, and Republican Chris Chaffee, who lost to incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore declares victory Nov. 8, 2022, over Republican opponent Dan Cox. Moore celebrates with running mate Aruna Miller (in green) and from left to right, U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Comptroller-elect Brooke Lierman and Attorney General-elect Anthony Brown.

A moderate Republican who refused to endorse Cox, Glassman was the only statewide candidate with whom Hogan appeared in a television ad.

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Glassman performed 10 percentage points better than Cox in his home county, a large Republican-majority area. He also performed 6 percentage points better than Cox in Cox’s home county of Frederick, where Cox lost to Moore 44% to 53%.

“What all of this shows is there can be a big swing toward Republicans who resemble more of what were traditional Maryland Republicans … more of a mainstream, middle-class person who watches their wallet, rather than an extremist,” Lublin said.


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