Opinion: In Hogan-Jealous Contest, Math Wins

Conventional wisdom suggests Larry Hogan, a popular incumbent running for reelection, might have the upper hand against his Democratic opponent, Ben Jealous. But after taking a closer look at the basic math, it is Jealous who has the advantage. Democrats aren’t happy and they’re making that known at the ballot box. Building on strong numbers we saw in June’s primary election, Democratic turnout will increase this November. We’ve seen similar trends in primaries and special elections around the nation, even in deep red states like Alabama where Sen. Doug Jones secured an upset victory. With Democrats motivated to vote across the state—Democratic turnout in the primary election increased 26 percent over 2014—Maryland’s total 2018 electorate is projected to grow to 2.1 million voters this November. That means the winner will need to earn more than a million votes.  Jason Waskey  That’s bad news if you’re Larry Hogan: No Republican has ever secured more than a million votes in a Maryland election. Many remember Hogan’s 2014 victory as a landslide, but he garnered a mere 884,400 votes — just 4,808 more than Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich received in 2002. There is a ceiling for Republican gubernatorial candidates in Maryland and it will be hard to break. Should turnout hit 2.1 million, Hogan would need an additional 186,000 votes to do what no other Republican—including himself—has done. Those votes will be hard to find. That’s the equivalent of duplicating the entire turnout of Baltimore City, winning every single vote and still needing another 40,000 to claim victory. From here, the math only gets worse for Hogan. Public polling has consistently shown his approval ratings outpace the number of people who have said they will vote for him. Voters may like him, but that doesn’t mean they will vote for him and his agenda. Ehrlich saw the same dynamic when he lost re-election to O’Malley in 2006. Approval ratings just don’t mean much when you are a Republican in Maryland; there simply aren’t enough Republicans to stop a motivated Democratic base. And what a motivated base the Democrats have, partly because of President Trump’s unpopularity, but also due to missteps Hogan has made locally, providing Democrats with ammunition to reach key demographics for November.   On education, Hogan has blocked $100 million in public school funding while redirecting $18 million of that to his new private school voucher program. On health care, the average benchmark Affordable Care Act premium for Marylanders has exploded from $220 to $486 per month—an increase of more than 120 percent. On the economy, Virginia has eclipsed Maryland by more than five times when it comes to job creation. In fact, Maryland ranks dead last in the region for job creation in the last year. Last, let’s not forget Hogan’s signature issue from 2014: taxes. He has not kept his promise to significantly reduce rates for Marylanders. It’s not surprising that public polls show a majority of Marylanders don’t feel any better off today than they did four years ago. The bad numbers for Hogan keep adding up. Conversely, Ben Jealous stands a real opportunity to ride a wave into office. His CEO-like appeal could be enough to satisfy Independents frustrated with Hogan over issues like the economy and health care. And his experience as former head of the NAACP could mobilize voters enough to make him Maryland’s first black governor. Jealous also enjoys the backing of many labor unions, including the Maryland State Education Association. For most voters in an overwhelmingly blue state, the decision between Ben Jealous and Larry Hogan comes down to who has a vision for the state that better aligns with their values. As The Washington Post editorial board recently asserted, Hogan lacks any concrete vision, even after governing for more than three years. “Given the governor’s incrementalism and lack of any signature marquee initiative,” The Post wrote, “his challenge is to convince Marylanders that he has a vision for the state.” Though it’s an easy narrative to accept, Hogan’s popularity doesn’t equal his eventual win. The real story of this race is mathematical, and the numbers are in Ben Jealous’ favor.   — Jason Waskey Jason Waskey is the former Maryland state director of Obama for America.

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