Time to Name the Winners and Losers of Election 2018

Winners: Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) and his team. What can you say? The man has a pitch-perfect political antenna and his team has been strategic and relentless about driving his message home. The numbers don’t lie. He’s found the sweet spot, tonally and philosophically, where Marylanders apparently want him to be. And immediately after his sumptuous victory, the court decision on redistricting is the cherry on top.

Loser: Benjamin T. Jealous (D). In a Democratic year, in a Democratic state, the guy couldn’t crack 43 percent. It’s not entirely his fault – we’re not convinced any Democrat could have beaten Hogan this year. But Jealous often seemed ill-at-ease as a candidate, and after his strong primary victory, his campaign never seemed to find its rhythm. Jealous is a smart, committed progressive with a bright future on the front lines – but maybe not as a political candidate.

Push: The chairmen of the Maryland Democratic Party and the Maryland Republican Party. Kathleen Matthews (D) and Dirk Haire (R) have thankless jobs and were operating in a confounding election cycle. Matthews was unable to reverse Democrats’ recent gubernatorial slump (a 2-3 record in the last five elections), but she did put together a solid party infrastructure that enabled Democrats up and down the ballot to take advantage of voter anger at the Trump administration. Haire kept his party organization focused and expectations realistic. He can bask in Hogan’s big win but has to be disappointed by the GOP results in the “Drive for Five” Democratic state Senate seats and other high-profile Republican setbacks. One bonus: His wife, Jessica Haire (R), won a seat on the Anne Arundel County Council – but by a far less resounding margin than they had hoped.

Winner: Angela D. Alsobrooks (D). Is the incoming Prince George’s County executive the next Democratic superstar? Watch what she does – and what she says.

Push: U.S. Rep. John K. Delaney (D). He’s won plaudits in Iowa and New Hampshire as he’s pursued his improbable campaign for the presidency. But with the midterms over, he’ll no longer be lonely, as hordes of other Democratic candidates come out of the woodwork. His early groundwork will help his cause. But he may find himself trampled and overlooked as the media spotlight turns to 2020. And does he ever regret not running for governor?

Winners: Jeremy Baker and Jake Weissmann. The top political strategists to House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) had drastically different missions this election cycle, and both executed them well. House Democrats picked up at least six seats – mostly in red territory – while Senate Democrats minimized their losses despite a vigorous Republican push.

Push: Women candidates. Nationally, women made big gains in political races. Here it’s a little different. A woman will be Prince George’s County executive for the first time. Women will occupy three of the “Big Eight” executive positions in the state for the first time. One-third of the Democratic caucus in the state Senate will be women. Women candidates are making progress throughout the state. And yet, there continue to be no women in the four statewide offices. The state’s Capitol Hill delegation is all male for the second straight Congress. Only one of the nine members of the new Montgomery County Council will be women. We can do better.

Push: The Maryland State Education Association. The state teachers’ union made a big bet on Ben Jealous and lost big. Gov. Hogan, who called the union’s organizers “thugs” in his first term and trolled them during the campaign, will no doubt look for other ways to do battle with them in his second term. But MSEA does have things to celebrate: the resounding win of the funding “lockbox” ballot initiative, downballot victories. And two of their former members – Marc B. Elrich (D) in Montgomery County and John A. “Johnny O” Olszewski Jr. (D) in Baltimore County – won, bringing their teacher perspective to the executive suites in Rockville and Towson.

Winner: Public financing in Montgomery County. Mission (mostly) accomplished. The new system worked, enabling candidates relying on small donations to match those depending on special interest donations. Elrich, the incoming county executive, relied on public financing. So did the four winners of County Council at-large seats. And it looks like the model is coming to Howard and Prince George’s counties and to Baltimore City.

Winner: Colleen Martin-Lauer. The Baltimore-based Democratic fundraiser and strategist had three clients in county executive races: Johnny O in Baltimore County, Steuart Pittman in Anne Arundel County and Calvin Ball in Howard County. Did anyone expect her to 3-0 in those races?

Loser: Service Employees International Union Local 1199. The union was a major factor in Jealous’ primary victory, but showed little interest in the general election. It played almost no role in the legislative races. It was a major player and prominent progressive voice during the O’Malley administration but will now find itself out in the wilderness.

Loser: The poultry industry. Lost its biggest and most powerful defender in Annapolis when state Sen. James N. Mathias Jr. (D-Lower Shore) was defeated. And now a big environmentalist, Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), is about to take over the committee with oversight over the industry and its environmental practices.

Winner: Anne Arundel County Democrats. The party seemed moribund, outgunned and bereft a couple of years ago. But thanks to the energy and savvy of key party activists, the party is rejuvenated – and their efforts should serve as a role model for party stalwarts elsewhere.

Loser: The Republican bench. Steve Schuh, out. Allan Kittleman, out. Rising stars like Christian Miele and Joe Cluster sidelined, at least temporarily. Ouch.

Winner: TV stations. God bless David Trone and Larry Hogan for all their political ads. Some state Senate candidates even aired ads on broadcast TV.

Winner: Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City). He played a key role in helping Johnny O win in Baltimore County. He’s collected political chits around the state after a stint as Democratic caucus chairman. He’s about to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Could a run for attorney general be in the offing?

Winner: Del.-elect Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery). We like to mark our “firsts” in Maryland, and Democrats do especially. Acevero, a union organizer, will become the first openly gay Afro-Latino member of the General Assembly.

Push: Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. Talk about a thankless job! The Marylander can celebrate the Democratic takeover in the House of Representatives and gains in statehouses around the country. But the losses in the U.S. Senate hurt. And now he has to preside over the party as a messy and perilous presidential election cycle begins. Somewhere in the back of his mind he’s got to be wondering whether he should have stayed home and run for governor in 2018.

Winner: Red Maryland. The purveyors of the political blog and podcast can be snarky and pedantic, and we could do without the gratuitous attacks. But they do a great public service, illuminating candidates and issues that might not otherwise get much attention in this state. We salute you.

Winner: Erin Cox. The State House and political reporter jumps from the struggling Baltimore Sun to the robust Washington Post, gets the F bomb dropped on her by Ben Jealous at a news conference, and continues cranking out stellar, informative, in-depth copy – all while late in her pregnancy.

Winner: Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R). Someone has to keep Larry Hogan humble. He remains the most popular governor in the country, while Hogan is only No. 2. And he won reelection in his blue state by almost 34 points – about 20 points better than Hogan’s reelection margin. Will he try to insert himself in the national political conversation as Hogan hopes to?

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Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.

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