Year in Review: Winners and losers in Maryland politics

Winners:

Gov. Larry Hogan. You don’t get to be the second Republican re-elected governor in Maryland — and we mean ever — by accident. Governor Hogan did nearly everything right in 2018 to set himself up for his victory in November, from his masterful management of his relationship (or, rather, intentional lack thereof) with President Donald Trump to his willingness to tack to the left on taxes, health care and gun control during the General Assembly session. It probably wouldn’t have mattered whom the Democrats put up against him; Mr. Hogan ran an aggressive campaign until the last vote was counted. Whether or not he has any future in elected office once his term is done, he will go down as one of the more skilled politicians Maryland has ever seen.

The Democratic bench. Part of what made Mr. Hogan’s victory so impressive was how badly his party did otherwise on election night. Democrats won all the competitive executive races, even besting incumbent Republicans in Anne Arundel and Howard counties. The question is now not whether Democrats have a strong candidate to run for governor in 2022 but which of their impressive new leaders will rise to that occasion. The early line: Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball are the ones to watch. Meanwhile, a crop of young Democratic stars — from Baltimore’s Mary Washington, Cory McCray and Antonio Hayes to Annapolis’ Sarah Elfreth — is set to hit the state Senate.

Rep. Elijah Cummings. Loads of Marylanders have seen their prospects improve with the Democrats’ takeover of the House of Representatives. Rep. Steny Hoyer resumes his perch as the No. 2 official in the House, Rep. Jamie Raskin won a leadership post representing newer members of the Democratic caucus, and Rep. John Sarbanes’ longstanding efforts to push good government legislation are being rewarded in the first bill his party’s leadership will put forward next year. But unless you count Nancy Pelosi as a once-and-always Baltimorean, the Marylander who’s the biggest winner in the House takeover is Rep. Elijah Cummings. The Baltimore Democrat has been doing yeoman’s work as the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government Oversight during the Trump years. Now that he'll be setting the agenda and issuing the subpoenas — look out.

Bipartisanship. Governor Hogan and the Democrats who control the General Assembly could have spent the spring picking fights and jockeying for advantage before the fall elections. Instead, they worked together on an ambitious effort to preserve Maryland’s Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange and crafted a response to the unintended consequences of the Trump tax cuts that will allow the state to start setting aside funds for an expansion in education spending starting next year.

Losers:

Ben Jealous. Establishment Democrats are questioning whether a different nominee might have beaten Governor Hogan, and various missteps on the campaign trail bolster their argument. We think a lot of the Monday morning quarterbacking is a little unfair, but it will certainly be hard for him to make a comeback — or for another insurgent candidate to get the party’s nomination in the future.

The Republican bench. The losses by county executives Steve Schuh in Anne Arundel and Allan Kittleman in Howard dealt a real blow to the GOP's hopes to hold onto the governor’s mansion after Governor Hogan’s second term. That leaves Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, a genial leader without much of a presence outside his own county, and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, a solid government professional but not exactly an electric presence on the campaign trail.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. Far be it from us to suggest he’s losing his iron grip on the Senate, but he’s certainly going to be less comfortable. Two of his four standing committee chairs lost in primaries — Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton and Joan Carter Conway — as did his No. 2, Nathaniel McFadden. A third, Ed Kasemeyer, retired, as did close allies John Astle and Ed Degrange. Another of his allies, Sen. Katherine Klausmeier, held on in a tight race, but only by aggressively distancing herself from him.

Comptroller Peter Franchot. How do we put in the loser column a politician who just racked up more votes than any candidate ever in a Maryland midterm election? Mr. Franchot is unquestionably popular with voters, but his unpopularity in the General Assembly is so high that lawmakers are no longer content merely to kill his craft beer reform legislation, they’re working to strip him of powers, and not even his friend in the governor’s mansion can help.

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