Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Maryland Governor- Race of the Day

77 Days Until Election Day

Maryland Governor

Status: Republican Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Likely Republican

In many ways, Maryland is Political Bizzaroworld, at least as it comes to this contest. A GOP Governor is very popular in an overwhelmingly Democrat state, and has among the highest job approval numbers in the country. As he seeks reelection to a second term, numerous prominent Democrats have abandoned their recently chosen nominee to endorse the Governor. Finally, this particular Governor has never made any bones about his lack of support for Donald Trump, both before and after the 2016 election, and still faced no primary challenge.

The 2014 election of Republican Larry Hogan as Governor of Maryland was perhaps the most unexpected headline of the night. Few believed it would be possible for the hefty real estate developer and political activist, who long ago lost two runs for Congress (a job his father once held), to beat Maryland's telegenic African-American Lt. Governor, a military veteran. Democrats had faced a contentious primary though and many voters in the state were wary of high taxes after eight years of an outgoing Democrat Governor. Hogan ran a smart campaign, came across as a non-ideological problem solver and won by four points after trailing in the polls for most of the campaign.

In the last decade, Hogan had served in the Cabinet of another Republican Governor, who broke a long drought in Maryland for the GOP. While that Governor was fairly popular during this time in office, when it came time to seek reelection in the strong Democrat year of 2006, there were just too many members of that party, and the incumbent was ousted. Upon his taking the oath of office, many believed that Hogan was a political fluke who would not win a second term.

Early on in his term though, he received plaudits of his handling of riots in Baltimore after a police brutality verdict and he was compared favorably to the reaction by Baltimore's Democrat Mayor. Shortly afterwards though, he announced that he had been diagnosed with an advanced case of non-Hodgkins lymphoma and would have to undergo treatment. At his side was his wife, a South Korean immigrant, and his Lt. Governor, Boyd Rutherford, an African-American, who served in the George W. Bush Agriculture Department, before running on a ticket with Hogan. The Governor said that he considered his odds of beating cancer to be better than the odds he had of winning the election as Governor. While he would lose his hair while undergoing chemotherapy, he stayed on his job and received near universal plaudits for his tenacity. Several months after announcing what sounded like a fatal diagnosis, Hogan said his cancer was in remission.

The list of Democrats lining up to face Hogan was long, and the party bench in Maryland is quite deep. Surprisingly enough though, the biggest names in the party, including those with statewide elected experience declined to run. Still, several credible candidates did announce their bids, as well as some other long-shots, and it seems to be pretty easy to get on the ballot in Maryland. Many of the candidates were African-American, signifying the strength of that voting bloc in the state party. One of those candidates, policy consultant Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, exited the race after her husband Congressman Elijah Cummings, was briefly hospitalized.

As the June primary inched nearer, the candidates named their choices for Lt. Governor, as a ticket is chosen as a team in the primary. All of the candidates ran to the left, but there seemed to be some divisions between those who had support in the state's political establishment and those who were running as outsiders. Many political figures in the state backed Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, an African-American who governed a heavily black country composed of many affluent residents and government employees. Another candidate, an openly gay State Senator, made some political history by engaging in a same sex kiss with his husband in a campaign ad and and then said, "take that, Trump."

The field of Democrats was quite racially and ethnically diverse, and one of the stronger candidates seemed to be Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, a caucasian. In May though, he died suddenly of a heart attack at age 60. Other candidates temporarily suspended their campaigns out of respect. His chosen running-mate, Valerie Ervin, an African-American former Montgomery County Councilwoman, decided she would take his place on the ballot and run for Governor. Ervin selected her own Lt. Governor running-mate, but it was too late in the game for the ballots to be changed to reflect this. and she dropped out before the voting.

At this point, it was clear that the primary was between Rushern Baker, and his partner, Elizabeth Embry, an official in the Maryland Attorney General's Office, who had run for Baltimore Mayor in 2016, and the ticket of former NAACP President Ben Jealous, and his choice, former state party Chair Susie Turnbull, who like Embry is a white female. The nominee for Governor though would be someone who identified as African-American. Jealous is biracial, and a decade ago, at the age of 35, was chosen to head the nation's oldest civil rights organization.

Jealous also ran proudly to the left and carried the endorsement of Bernie Sanders, and many of his progressive followers. That wing of the party prevailed in the primary as Jealous beat Baker, 40-29, with the rest of the vote scatted without anyone else reaching double digits. By this point though, polls showed Hogan with a healthy lead over all the Democrat contenders and the talk that even a very popular Republican Governor can still lose in Maryland, had subsided. None of the Democrats ran as strong against Hogan as "Generic Democrat" did, as actual human beings have flaws and vulnerabilities to exploit.

By many standards, Jealous's general election campaign is not going well. Despite his embrace of the platform of openly socialist Bernie Sanders, whom Jealous actively backed for President in 2016, Jealous took profane exception to a question by a reporter when asked if he was a socialist himself. Republicans ran this in ads and Jealous had to apologize for his language.

A slew of Democrat politicians and labor unions have also offered their support to the Republican Hogan/Rutherford ticket. While some Maryland Democrat politicos, (especially older white ones) have crossed the aisle before to support a Republican for Governor, it seems to be happening this year at unprecedented levels. The Democrat State Comptroller, who is seeking reelection, has said he will remain neutral in the race, but by not backing his own party ticket-mate, seems to be sending the signal he prefers Hogan, with whom he has had a good relationship.

Polls show Hogan holding a significant lead over Jealous and attempts by Democrats to somehow tie the GOP Governor to Donald Trump appear to be shrugged off by voters. To be sure, Jealous will have significant support among the African-Americans and white liberals he was able to join together to win the primary, but many others who traditionally vote for Democrats, seem to think that Jealous's proposals for single payer health care and free college tuition sound too expensive.

Ardent Trump fans may not like Hogan much, but it is hard to see them voting for Jealous (despite the fact that Trump and Bernie Sanders often spoke of the same themes), and plenty of others in the state across party lines seem to have a genuine affection for the Governor. Right now, it is looking like he could win another term by a margin few expected. With all the times that Larry Hogan has seemed to beat or be in line to beat the political odds, a handful of people may suggest he find a way to seek the Presidency in 2020.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

8 D,  (2 Safe, 1 Likely, 2 Leans, 3 Tossup) 
8 R (2 Safe, 2 Likely, 3 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

15 D (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Likely, 2 Leans, 3 Tossup)
15 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 2 Likely, 3 Leans, 1 Tossup)


At 4:15 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Corey: Hogan might crack 33% of African Americans.


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