ANNAPOLIS (, 2018)—Tuesday night in Maryland was historic: Gov. Larry Hogan, the popular incumbent, won a decisive victory against his Democratic challenger to become the state's first two-term Republican governor in more than a half century.
The Associated Press called the race at 9:07 p.m. with Hogan leading Benjamin T. Jealous, the former NAACP president. Unofficial results from the Maryland Board of Elections Wednesday morning put Hogan at 56.2 percent and Jealous at 42.7 with nearly all precincts reporting.
Reports on Tuesday night indicated that voters were in line late in Prince George's County due to a lack of paper ballots in some polling stations.
Ian Schlakman of the Green Party tallied 0.5 percent of the vote and Libertarian Shawn Quinn garnered 0.6 percent, according to preliminary results.
Hogan stepped on stage at the Westin Hotel in Annapolis just after 10 p.m. before a boisterous crowd to declare victory.
"They said it was impossible. They said it couldn't be done in Maryland but thanks to you we just went out and did it," Hogan said. "Tonight in this deep blue state, in this blue year, with a blue wave, it turns out I can surf."
The race never appeared close, with polls showing the governor leading Jealous by double digits from the Democratic primary in June (Hogan ran unopposed in the Republican primary) until October when a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll had him winning by 20 points.
Jealous and his running mate Susie Turnbull conceded just before 11 p.m.
"We looked at the numbers," Jealous said to his supporters gathered at the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore. "Calling right now is the right thing to do."
In his victory speech, Hogan thanked Jealous for running a "spirited" campaign and "giving Maryland a real choice."
"While we disagree on the issues he has my respect and I sincerely wish him well in his future pursuits," he said.
Hogan's approval rating topped 70 percent in August—in a state in which voters from his party are outnumbered by Democrats by a more than two-to-one margin.
The governor's victory was helped by a cash-rich re-election campaign that spent millions on ads touting Hogan's first-term achievements, including surpassing funding quotas for the state's education system, fighting the opioid epidemic, enacting business-friendly policies, putting the brakes on tax increases handed down by Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration and lowering tolls and fees.
Solomon Wiltshire, a 30-year-old Libertarian from Baltimore said, "I voted for Hogan because my business (printing) has done well since he has been governor. Ben Jealous stands for what I believe in. But, I gotta pay the bills."
As for Jealous, he began the general race at a significant financial disadvantage. The former head of the NAACP spent nearly all of his campaign funds to win a crowded Democratic primary. In the early stages of the general election, polls showed Hogan with a double-digit advantage and campaign donations soon dried up, leaving Jealous unable to effectively introduce himself to voters.
Jealous eventually released ads touting his accomplishments both as president of the NAACP and as a businessman, as well as his plans to fund education and other parts of his agenda. The Democratic Governors Association released an ad campaign in October.
Hogan was further aided by several gaffes by Jealous, including inexplicably vetoing a reporter from being a panelist for the race's lone debate. After receiving criticism, his campaign withdrew the veto.
Voter enthusiasm has appeared uncommonly high for a midterm election. More than 660,000 Marylanders voted early—Double the total that turned out in the last Maryland gubernatorial election in 2014.
Some voters said they participated in response to Republican President Donald Trump whose policies—namely immigration—have been seen as divisive and polarizing.
Bridget Hilder said she doesn't normally vote in midterms but her daughter voting for the first time encouraged her to do the same.
Hilder voted in Pasadena, Maryland, for Hogan, and said she likes how he doesn't get involved in controversies. "He's brought Maryland back to where it's not in the bad news anymore," she said.
Hogan has managed to shed most if not all association with President Donald Trump, despite Democrats' efforts to link the two.
Hogan has made a point to contrast his brand of politics to those in Washington, D.C.
"Tonight the voters of Maryland put aside divisive partisan politics and the people in our great state voted for civility, for bipartisanship and for common sense leadership," Hogan said. "What unites us as Marylanders and as Americans is always greater than that which divides us."
"Tonight," he continued, "Maryland sent a loud and clear message to Washington that they will hear all across America."
Linking Hogan to Trump has not worked as well as some Democrats would have hoped, said Mileah Kromer, associate professor of political science and director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College, not only because of his policy decisions, but also his temperament.
"Hogan needs to be a moderate to appeal to moderate voters and Trump has helped him to look like a moderate," Kromer told Capital News Service last month.
Ada Joya, a Hyattsville, Maryland, resident, said President Trump's agenda—specifically immigration—has brought out a lot of people to vote in the area.
"Especially in my community, a lot of people are more excited (about this year's election)," she said. "Before people would ignore it but now they're waking up. Even if they're not being affected they're going out for other people that are suffering."
Much like his first term, Hogan will have to work with a heavily Democratic Maryland General Assembly, which maintained its veto-proof majority.
Republicans targeted six seats in Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Frederick counties and the Eastern Shore—called the "Drive for Five"—to break the Democrats' ability to override any veto that Hogan issues. With all precincts in, the GOP appears to have won two of those races—Mary Beth Carozza defeated Jim Mathias in District 38; and Chris West, a Republican, won District 42, a seat previously held by Democrat Jim Brochin, who stepped down.
Hogan has been applauded for his bipartisanship in his first term, so that voters like James Minor, a Hyattsville resident who said he's worked for the Department of Homeland Security for 15 years, told Capital News Service on Tuesday afternoon he voted for Hogan despite identifying as a Democrat.
"He doesn't seem like he has a big 'R' on his forehead to me," said Minor, adding that he appreciated Hogan's goals of giving more money to school systems in Maryland, and said Hogan seemed to have the state's best interests at heart.
But later at that same polling place, some voters experienced frustration and long waits.
While Hogan was declared victory, Prince George's County was still awaiting some results due to a ballot shortage. On Wednesday morning, the state Board of Elections had not yet reported all precincts in Prince George's and Baltimore City.
Marjee Chmiel, 42, of Hyattsville, on Tuesday night said the line was short when she and her husband got to the polls around 5:30 p.m., but it quickly grew when the polling place, Hyattsville Middle School, ran out of paper ballots.
Chmiel said she was one of the last few to get an electronic ballot, and soon after, the line built up to more than 200 people as everyone was waiting for more ballots to be delivered.
Despite this, Chmiel said, voters were not deterred.
Chmiel estimated she and her husband waited nearly two hours to vote. Others in line behind them likely had to wait longer for the additional ballots to be delivered.
"Everyone really hung in there," Chmiel said. "They said there was a widespread shortage in the county" where African-Americans make up about 65 percent of the population. "It's concerning the county had this issue knowing it's a majority-minority county."
Calls to the state board of elections and to the Maryland Democratic Party on Tuesday night were not returned.
Not since the Eisenhower administration have Maryland voters re-elected a Republican governor—when Theodore McKeldin won a second term in 1954. Hogan did what Spiro Agnew never attempted and Bob Ehrlich failed to do.
Agnew never made a re-election bid, instead he was elected the 39th vice president of the United States with President Richard Nixon in 1968 and eventually resigned after pleading no contest to charges of tax evasion. In 2006, incumbent Gov. Bob Ehrlich lost decisively to Martin O'Malley despite a high approval rating.
Voters decided on two ballot questions—both amendments to the Maryland Constitution—in the general election. Both passed with nearly all state precincts reporting.
The first question, which had garnered 89 percent to 11 percent with most precincts reporting, specifies that, starting in 2020, the education funding from gaming revenues must be supplemental, and cannot be used as a substitute for other schools funding that is already required by law.
The new amendment requires the governor to allocate at least $125 million in fiscal year 2020, $250 million in fiscal year 2021, and $375 million in fiscal year 2022.
The second question amends the state constitution to allow qualified individuals to register and vote on the same day. It appeared at press time to have passed 67 percent to 33 percent.
Current law allows same-day registration and voting during the early voting period, the second Thursday before the election through the Thursday before the election. The amendment expands that to include Election Day, according to the Board of Elections.
Frosh and Franchot
Two of Maryland's most prominent Democrats won re-election Tuesday.
Attorney General Brian Frosh defeated Republican challenger Craig Wolf 64 percent to 36 percent at press time with a large majority of precincts reporting.
The state's top financial officer, Comptroller Peter Franchot, trounced Anjali Reed Phukan nearly 72 percent to 28 percent with most precincts reporting, winning a fourth term in office.
Franchot's victory ensures that Hogan retains perhaps his strongest Democratic ally. The pair have forged an unlikely friendship while serving on the Board of Public Works together, to the ire of some Democratic leaders.
—Capital News Service correspondents Howard Fletcher, Harrison Cann and Savannah Williams contributed to this report.