2018 politics: Hogan wins historic re-election, but other Maryland Republicans fall as Trump remains unpopular

Larry Hogan made history this year when he became just the second Republican ever to win re-election as governor of Maryland.

In doing so, Hogan avoided being dragged under a blue wave that swept parts of the region and the country due to concern over the presidency of Republican Donald Trump.

Hogan defeated Democratic challenger Ben Jealous thanks in part to Democrats who crossed party lines to vote for his centrist approach to governing, despite their disdain for Trump. Hogan won 20 of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions. Statewide, he defeated Jealous by double digits.

Other Republicans weren’t so fortunate.

In Howard County, Councilman Calvin Ball, a Democrat, defeated incumbent Republican County Executive Allan Kittleman. In Anne Arundel, Republican County Executive Steve Schuh lost his seat to Democratic challenger Steuart Pittman. And in Baltimore County, Democrat Johnny Olszewski Jr. defeated Republican Al Redmer in the county executive race. A survivor was Republican Barry Glassman, who easily won re-election as Harford County executive.

Overall, the election results mean that in 2019, Democrats will hold the top jobs in seven of Maryland’s eight largest jurisdictions, seven of its eight congressional seats, and supermajorities in the state Senate and the House of Delegates. Both U.S. senators, the attorney general and state comptroller are Democrats, too.

Hogan placed the blame for his party’s woes squarely at Trump’s feet, calling him an “albatross” around the neck of GOP candidates.

“We had President Trump say the election should be about him, even though he’s not on the ballot,” Hogan told reporters the day after the election. “In Maryland, that’s exactly what happened. It was a repudiation of the president, who lost this state by 30 points.”

Exit polls from The Associated Press and Fox News back up that analysis. Many Marylanders said they were voting against Republicans as a protest against Trump. Two-thirds of Marylanders said Trump was a factor in their vote, and about two-thirds said they have an unfavorable view of Trump.

AP’s VoteCast exit polling found that about a third of Maryland voters said the country is on the right track, compared with 7 in 10 who said the country is headed in the wrong direction. Moreover, 77 percent of Maryland voters said Trump has the wrong temperament to serve as president

“Party identification is an information shortcut everybody uses,” said Mileah Kromer, director of Goucher College’s Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center. “Trump has done some serious damage to the Republican Party label.”

Although Trump has little to do with running local governments in Maryland, he played an outsize role in politics here in 2018 — and not just at the ballot box.

State Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, sued the Trump administration multiple times — over issues ranging from Trump’s appointment of an acting attorney general without congressional approval to his handling of a question regarding immigration status on the U.S. Census.

“Brian Frosh really stepped into the role as the leader of the resistance for Maryland,” Kromer said.

Local governments, including Baltimore’s, joined lawsuits against Trump’s actions as well, accusing the president of attempting to “sabotage” the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

Hogan formally asked Frosh to file suit against the federal government several times this year, including over environmental issues.

Hogan — who declined to support Trump in 2016 — also spoke out against some Trump policies, including when he pulled back four Maryland National Guard members from the Mexican border when the president’s administration was separating the children of immigrants from their parents.

The governor 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.

Congress

Democrats held on to seven of the state’s eight congressional seats as Democrat David Trone, who spent more than $15 million in Maryland’s most expensive race, won the election for the 6th District seat.

Democratic incumbent John Delaney is stepping down to run for president in 2020.

The 6th District, though, might look very different in two years; a three-judge federal panel ordered its lines redrawn due to partisan gerrymandering.

Frosh is appealing that decision, arguing the U.S. Supreme Court should hear the case before a new map is created. Hogan, meanwhile, is pushing forward with an effort to comply with the decision by creating a commission to draw a new map.

The lower federal court has granted a stay of its ruling until the Supreme Court rules on the case or July 1, whichever comes first.

General Assembly

The Maryland General Assembly lost another member to corruption as Sen. Nathaniel T. Oaks of Baltimore resigned in March and pleaded guilty to two felony fraud charges. The Democrat admitted to taking $15,300 from an FBI informant who posed as an out-of-town developer and enlisted Oaks in a scheme to defraud the federal government.

Oaks was the second state lawmaker snared by prosecutors in 2018. When the legislature convened on Jan. 11, Del. Michael Vaughn abruptly resigned for what he said were health reasons. The Prince George’s County Democrat was indicted in March on federal corruption charges involving the county liquor board.

And a former Prince George's delegate, Will Campos, pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy in January for actions he took while serving on the County Council. Also, Gary Brown, an aide to Mayor Catherine Pugh, lost his nomination to represent Baltimore in the House of Delegates after he was charged with campaign finance violations.

Meanwhile, Maryland’s Republican Party had ambitious goals for gains in the General Assembly, but failed to achieve them. The GOP’s “Drive for Five” — its effort to gain five seats in the state Senate that would let it sustain Hogan’s vetoes — gained just one seat.

The results mean House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who coasted to victory themselves, will still be able to override Hogan’s vetoes with just the votes of their fellow Democrats.

Legislation

The Democratic-controlled legislature and Hogan agreed in 2018 to work together on some significant legislation. It included a ban of bump stocks, accessories that make semi-automatic weapons function like automatic guns.

A “red flag” law, which allows judges to order the temporary removal of firearms from people considered a danger to themselves or others, also passed. Maryland’s judiciary fielded 114 requests to remove firearms from individuals in October, the first month the law went into effect.

Constitutional Amendments

In November, voters backed a pair of amendments to the Maryland Constitution.

A voter registration amendment allows the General Assembly to create a same-day voter registration system; it will allow eligible Marylanders to show up at the polls, register and cast a ballot, all on Election Day. Currently, same-day registration is available only during early voting.

The other amendment, a casino “lockbox” measure, requires that gambling revenues be spent on local public school systems, on top of current minimum funding requirements.

luke.broadwater@baltsun.com

twitter.com/lukebroadwater

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
46°