2018 | Bethesda Beat

Opinion: Where Larry Hogan Won in MoCo

Race mattered in gubernatorial election

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The precinct results for the general election are in.  While Gov. Larry Hogan won re-election by 12 points across the state, he lost MoCo by 11 points.  But he also had the best night for a Republican countywide since former U.S. Rep. Connie Morella was in office.

The precinct data from the State Board of Elections has an important limitation: it only has election day votes.  This year, 61 percent of all MoCo general election votes were cast on election day, 28 percent were cast through early votes and 11 percent were cast through absentee or provisional votes.  Democratic challenger Ben Jealous won election day votes by 5 points, absentee and provisional votes by 18 points and early votes by 19 points.  So the presentation below skews towards Hogan.  Areas with close margins between Jealous and Hogan would probably be Jealous wins if early, absentee and provisional votes were available at the precinct level.

Let’s begin by looking at election day results for congressional, state legislative and county council districts.

Counting election day votes only, Hogan won MoCo’s portion of Congressional District 6, state Legislative Districts 14, 15 and 16 and Council Districts 1, 2 and 3.  He also came close to winning state Legislative District 19.  That means that MoCo has one congressman, three state senators, nine delegates and three County Council members who represent districts that voted for Hogan on election day.

Now let’s look at election day results by local area.

Hogan won in the upcounty areas of Damascus, Poolesville, Dickerson, Sandy Spring, Derwood, Brookeville, Olney and Laytonsville, all of which he won four years ago.

This year, he also won in Leisure World, Potomac and North Potomac and had razor-tight victories in Rockville, Gaithersburg and Clarksburg.

He lost on election day in Bethesda by just 11 votes and came within 5 points in Kensington and Chevy Chase.

The latter three performances are remarkable considering that Bethesda, Kensington and Chevy Chase are key parts of the Democratic Crescent, the areas in and near the Beltway that usually deliver huge victories to Democrats.

Hogan won in upcounty as a whole and won the precincts that voted for term limits by 80 percent or more two years ago by 17 points.  Counting election day results alone – with the caveat stated above – when Takoma Park, Downtown Silver Spring and the east county ZIP codes of 20901, 20903, 20904 and 20905 are removed, Hogan won the rest of MoCo.

Finally, let’s look at election day voting by precinct population racial distribution.

Race mattered a lot in this election.  Hogan won majority white precincts and his victory margin tended to climb as the white percentage increased.  He also won heavily Asian precincts.  But he got clobbered in majority minority, black and Hispanic precincts.

How does this compare to last time?  In 2014, Hogan won 37 percent of the vote in MoCo against Lt. Gov.  Anthony Brown.  This year, Hogan’s 44 percent represented a 7 point improvement.  Among local areas, Hogan had his biggest election day improvements in Leisure World (plus 21 points from 2014 to 2018), North Potomac, Bethesda and Chevy Chase (plus 14 points each) and Potomac (plus 13 points).  Perhaps non-coincidentally, Leisure World – a long-time stronghold for MoCo Democrats – also showed the biggest shift in favor of term limits between the 2004 and 2016 charter amendment votes.

Larry Hogan had the best performance by a Republican in MoCo in many years.

The natural question to ask is why.  Maryland Matters founder Josh Kurtz said this month’s Committee for Montgomery legislative breakfast that Hogan “governed as a centrist Democrat.”  Many Democratic office holders and activists would disagree with that, but Hogan certainly convinced a lot of people that he was a moderate.  He did not have a 20-point agenda of new government programs to offer, but he opposed gerrymandering, supported economic growth, co-opted several Democratic issues (like fracking and the education funding “lockbox”) and generally stayed clear of social issues favored by both the right and the left.

Perhaps most importantly, voters believed that if he was re-elected, tax hikes would be far less likely than if Ben Jealous won.  That formula carried many parts of MoCo as well as every other local jurisdiction in the state except for Baltimore City and Prince George’s and Charles counties.  It produced the biggest victory for a Republican gubernatorial candidate in 68 years.

That’s something for Democrats in MoCo and the rest of Maryland to ponder going forward.

Adam Pagnucco is a writer, researcher and consultant who is a former chief of staff at the County Council. He has worked in the labor movement and has had clients in labor, business and politics.