Although Republican challengers unseated Democratic governors in Connecticut and Illinois and apparently captured the governorship of Massachusetts after eight years, the astonishing win of Republican Larry Hogan Jr. in heavily Democratic Maryland was by far the "Cinderella story" of GOP statehouse victories Tuesday night.
In a state that has only twice elected Republican governors in the last half-century and where Democrats have more registered voters than Republicans and independents combined, businessman Hogan defeated Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown by a margin of 53 percent to 46 percent.
The victory of Hogan was all the more impressive in that Brown had campaign visits from President Barack and first lady Michelle Obama in his effort to become the Free State's first black governor. Moreover, where Hogan spent $2 million and relied on his state's matching funds for candidates, Brown abjured the matching funds and was thus able to raise and spend more than $10 million on his candidacy.
Hogan and his supporters credited the tax increases overseen by lame-duck Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley over the past eight years and their effect on state business as key to his historic triumph Tuesday night.
A week before the balloting, as polls showed him closing in on the Democratic favorite, Hogan told Newsmax: "What you're seeing is a reaction to the O'Malley-Brown administration raising taxes by a record $10 billion over eight years and in the process driving 8,688 small businesses and 200,000 jobs from our state."
"So, voters in Maryland, whatever their party loyalty, are showing a willingness to listen to and try something different."
Much like his political hero Jack Kemp, Hogan campaigned on an agenda of opportunity and empowerment: lowering and eliminating taxes, identifying waste by state government and slashing it from the budget, and reviving charter schools, "which give children an opportunity they wouldn't normally have."
Hogan, who served as appointments secretary to former Republican Gov. (2002-06) Bob Ehrlich, campaigned hard among the state's black population. He performed especially well in historically Democratic Baltimore County, running ahead of Ehrlich's numbers there in his winning 2002 race.
The historic and personal significance of Hogan's triumph seemed to be endless. In taking the statehouse, he became only the sixth Republican to win statewide office in Maryland since Spiro T. Agnew won the governorship in 1966.
Hogan's victory came 40 years after his father, then-Rep. Larry Hogan Sr., lost the GOP primary for governor after voting for Richard Nixon's impeachment on the House Judiciary Committee.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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