Analysis: Energized Republicans, disinterested Democrats helped Hogan win

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Illustration above by DonkeyHotey with Flickr Creative Commons License

Editor’s note: People are still debating how Republican Larry Hogan won his upset victory for governor over Democrat Anthony Brown. Political consultant Jim Burton offers a key factor in the win by analyzing voter turnout by legislative district.    

By Jim Burton


The enthusiasm among Republicans was real and measurable in November’s gubernatorial election.

We all know how well the Hogan for Governor campaign performed in Maryland, a state where the Democrats have all the advantages.

The Democrats were expected to win the governor’s race because they have home court advantage — their party registration advantage, the fundraising dollars advantage, the number of elected officials, and the strong party infrastructure.  But despite those overwhelming advantages, the Hogan campaign’s message of Change Maryland by balancing the state budget and reducing taxes excited Republicans and voters across the state.

When looking at partisan turnout by legislative district and comparing it to the State Board of Elections registration statistics for November, it is remarkable how energized Republicans were to vote and, to the same degree, how disinterested Democrats were throughout the State.

Republicans outperformed

Looking at each of the 68 legislative districts, including the subdistricts (one- and two-member districts), there were 36 districts where Republicans outperformed their voter registration percentage by 5 points or more.

By way of illustration, in legislative district 1A (Garrett Co.): Republicans turned out 8.4% higher than their actual registration percentage. Democrats in District  1A underperformed their registration percentage by 2.6%. Of these 36 legislative districts which consist of 60 House of Delegate seats, Republicans won 47 of the seats and Democrats won the remaining 13.

There were only seven districts where Republicans underperformed their actual voter registration percentage.

However, a major problem for Democrats was that there were 30, yes 30, legislative districts where they underperformed their voter registration ratio.

The Hogan campaign, along with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and others, helped generate enthusiasm in Republican areas, while President Obama, the First Lady, President Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton failed to energize the Democratic base.

The Hogan campaign won the 36 best Republican turnout districts with 72% of the vote, compared to Anthony Brown’s 27%.  In the nine best Democrat turnout districts, Brown won with 76% of the vote and Hogan earned 23% of the vote.

[Editor’s Note: In general, due to partisan redistricting, Republican-dominated legislative districts have 5 to 10% higher population than Democrat-dominated legislative districts, according to figures from the Maryland Department of Planning.]

Looking at the same information by county shows Republicans outperformed their registration percentage in every jurisdiction including Baltimore City, though it was only by one-tenth of one percent. Unfortunately for Democrats, their turnout efforts underperformed registration in 19 of the 24 jurisdictions.  Despite the grand efforts of the Brown for Governor campaign to bring in star Democrats to energize the base, it appears to not have had the major impact they anticipated.

There were many ingredients that contributed to the Hogan victory and certainly candidate quality was key.  The candidate’s major accomplishment was a great message that energized the Republican electorate to turnout at a much higher rate, in sharp contrast to the Democrats who were decidedly less enthused about voting.

Jim Burton is a 20 year political operative and pollster.  In 2014, he did polling and message development for a number of winning Republican candidates — Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, State Senator-Elect Addie Eckardt, Senator-Elect Gail Bates, Delegate Cathy Vitale, Delegate Bob Flanagan, Delegate Herb McMillan, Delegate-Elect Johnny Mautz, Anne Arundel County Council Chairman Jerry Walker, and Howard County Councilman Greg Fox.  He was also the pollster for Dan Bongino for Congress, Dean D’Camera for Anne Arundel County Council, and Tim Robinson for State Senate. He can be reached at 202 494 7163 or