Historic Republican gains in Maryland as Hogan wins; GOP picks up execs, House and Senate seats

By Len Lazarick

Maryland Republicans made historic gains in Tuesday’s election.

Larry Hogan Jr. became just the third Republican elected governor in the past 50 years, winning by almost the same 51.5 percent margin and carrying almost the same number of counties as Gov. Bob Ehrlich, the last Republican chief executive 12 years ago.

Sen. Allan Kittleman became just the second Republican Howard County executive in its history, and Del. Steve Schuh, as expected, kept the Anne Arundel County executive office in GOP hands. On the Lower Shore, Bob Culver defeated Democrat Richard Pollitt, the first Wicomico County executive.

Ex-Secret Service agent Dan Bongino came very close to unseating freshman Democratic Congressman John Delaney in the 6th Congressional District, redrawn to put it into Democratic hands. Delaney, a wealthy former banker, had to put up $800,000 of his own money in the closing weeks to hold onto his seat.

But it was in the Maryland General Assembly that the GOP matched Hogan’s unanticipated victory with unexpected gains — despite partisan gerrymandering by Democrats that sought to cut the GOP’s numbers.

Republicans picked up nine seats in the House of Delegates and two in the state Senate. The GOP will have 52 seats in the 141-seat House, when just months ago their leaders thought they would be lucky to hold onto the 43 seats they currently have, already a historic high number for Republicans in the Maryland House.

Sauerbrey feels vindicated

Hundreds of Republicans gathered for the Hogan victory party at the Annapolis Westin Hotel. Singing and dancing with a live band, hugging and high-fiving, few were as elated as Ellen Sauerbrey, the former House of Delegates minority leader who almost was elected governor in 1994, losing to Parris Glendening by 6,007 votes. Many in the GOP feel she actually won that election if it were not for Democratic vote tampering.

“Twenty years later, vindication,” she said early Wednesday morning. “I think the people have spoken.”

On Election Day, she worked a polling place in Baltimore County where she lives, and people would tell her: “I’ve always voted Democratic, but I’ve had it.”

Dundalk sweep

Clearly, they had had it in Dundalk.

In one of their most remarkable wins, Republicans swept the Senate seat and three House seats in District 6, the Dundalk-Essex area that had always elected Democrats. They also knocked off the longtime chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Norman Conway, on the Lower Shore, and an appropriations subcommittee chair, John Bohanan, in the increasingly Republican St. Mary’s County.

In St. Mary’s, Republican Steve Waugh also ended the 36-year political career of state Sen. Roy Dyson, an education and health committee vice chair who had served 10 years in Congress before he was elected to the state Senate.

The GOP also held onto the Harford-Cecil Senate seat held by Sen. Nancy Jacobs, with Bob Cassilly defeating Mary-Dulany James, another House Appropriations subcommittee chair.

For more detailed coverage of the legislative races, see a separate story.

How Hogan won

Sauerbrey said Hogan won with a strong disciplined message that focused on taxes, spending and jobs. Hogan kept to that message Tuesday night in his victory speech.

“They said it couldn’t be done, but together we did it,” Hogan told the boisterous crowd more used to election night wakes than victory celebrations. “I want to thank [New Jersey] Gov. Christie for bringing in the cavalry.”

Christie, chair of the Republican Governor’s Association, made four visits to the state and funnelled money for ads to boost the underfunded Hogan campaign, which had accepted public funding that limited fundraising.

“Tonight we have sent a loud and clear message to Annapolis,” Hogan said.

Hogan emphasized his willingness to work in a bipartisan way, as he did through his organization Change Maryland, which became the theme and basis of his campaign.

“This race was never about a fight between Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “The voters showed that they were completely fed up with politics as usual.”

“Thanks to you, real change has come to Maryland,” Hogan told the crowd. “Tomorrow, the people of Maryland finally get to take Maryland back.”

He said he will begin “cleaning up the mess in Annapolis and restoring integrity to state government.” He promised to get that government “off our backs and out of our pockets.”

Wednesday he is scheduled to hold a press conference to announce his transition team.

State police protection

After his speech, Hogan spent almost an hour greeting and talking to people left in the Westin ballroom. But one of the sure signs of his new status as governor-elect were the plainclothes state troopers of the executive protection detail who became visible as Hogan took the stage.

Afterward, at least six hovered near Hogan as he worked the crowd, two were with Lt. Gov.-elect Boyd Rutherford, and one scanned the room near Hogan’s wife, Yumi, a Korean American artist. One of the executive protection detail’s black Chevy Tahoe hybrid SUVs waited to transport Hogan outside the Westin, not far from the Hogan-Rutherford bus that he had been traveling in for months.

Many of the newly elected legislators and officeholders traveled to Annapolis to join Hogan in the early morning after their own victory celebrations, relishing the prospect working with a friend in the State House as they took on their new posts.

“It can’t get more exciting than this,” said Del. Susan Krebs, elected to her fourth term from Carroll County.