By Alexis Terry
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan may have won re-election easily last month, but political analyst don’t believe it will be easy for the GOP to capture the governor’s mansion again in 2022.
Hogan became the first Republican governor to win a second term in Maryland in 64 years. He won by 13.4 percentage points over his Democratic opponent, Ben Jealous.
But Hogan’s victory does not mean that deep blue Maryland is turning red – or event purple – anytime soon, analysts said. Democrats won three key county executive seats in Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties; putting them in control of seven of the state’s eight largest jurisdictions.
Democrat Ben Cardin was re-elected to the U.S. Senate. And the party still maintains super majorities in both house of the General Assembly.
In short, analysts said, the Democratic Party’s political bench got much deeper this year.
“It’s not obvious who the next Larry Hogan could be,” said John McTague, an associate professor at Towson University who studies American politics.
Political analysts who were interviewed over the past week said that while it is unclear who the Republicans might nominate to succeed Hogan in four years, the Democratic county executives in Prince George’s, Baltimore and Howard counties are all people to watch for the governor’s race in the next election.
Democrats Angela Alsobrooks became Prince George’s first female county executive. Calvin Ball (D) defeated Republican incumbent Allan Kittleman in Howard County, where he will be the first African American to serve as county executive. Johnny Olszweski Jr. (D) defeated Republican Al Redmer Jr. in Baltimore County.
The Comptroller of Maryland, Peter Franchot (D), is also someone who could win the governor seat if he was to run in 2022, according to Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, R-District 5.
“It will be very difficult for a Republican to win again,” McTague said. “I don’t think [this election] speaks to a broader turn red.”
Hogan’s campaign and charisma drove voters to the polls and made them more eager to split the ballot.
“Had the Democrats nominated a person with a long history in Democratic politics who was less radical than Ben Jealous, Larry Hogan’s victory would have been less of a lock,” said Richard Vatz, a professor of Rhetoric and Communication at Towson.
Hogan was able to use his personal brand to separate himself from the right-ward turn of the national Republican Party, which made him more appealing to moderate voters. He understood that his party affiliation would not help him in a Maryland election, said McTague.
Anyone who wasn’t reasonably moderate made the win for Hogan inevitable, according to Paul McCartney, an associate professor in the political science department at Towson.
“People don’t perceive Hogan as an extreme Republican, but his politics are actually more extreme than his reputation,” McCartney said.
He was also popular because he didn’t get into partisan fights with the Democrats and avoided controversial social issues, Marks said.
Analyst also recognized that Hogan handled his fight with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015 gracefully, which humanized him and strengthened his appeal with Maryland voters.
Marks said he is unsure of who will run as a Republican in the next governor race.
Hogan’s political future is unknown as of now, but McCartney says he would be an “attractive candidate” for the Republican Party in the 2020 or 2024 presidential election.
Vatz said that Republicans will continue to have problems winning statewide in Maryland, even if Democrats have fairly weak candidates.
“Maryland is still reliably Left and Democratic,” Vatz said. “But when leadership is strongly unimpressive, say in Baltimore City, voters will tolerate even consistent murders before voting in a conservative.”