Maryland, the only one of the 13 colonies founded by Roman Catholics, has long had a culturally conservative element. It also has the largest African American electorate of any state outside the Deep South, and in Prince George’s County, its largest majority-black jurisdiction, megachurches are an important part of the religious landscape.
But exit polls suggested that the initiatives on same-sex marriage and immigrant tuition were propelled to victory by a new coalition made up of some of the same demographic groups that were key to President Obama’s win, including younger voters, minorities and the white professional class.
“It’s a reflection of Maryland’s progressive values but also of the timing of this election, which captured where the country is going more broadly,” said Mike Morrill, a longtime Democratic consultant in Maryland.
Both same-sex marriage and the state’s version of the Dream Act were championed with considerable risk by the politically ambitious Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who also helped secure victories Tuesday on ballot measures to expand gambling in Maryland and uphold the state’s recently passed congressional district map.
The wins helped secure a legacy for O’Malley in Annapolis that he could use to promote himself to liberal Democrats if he pursues the presidency in 2016. Losses on the higher-profile measures would have been embarrassing, given how closely associated he became with the causes.
Despite passage of the same-sex marriage initiative, Marylanders were sharply divided on the issue. Statewide, 52 percent voted to uphold the state’s new law, while 48 percent voted to reject it.
The measure carried in only six of the state’s 24 jurisdictions. Most of those were Maryland’s largest, located along the Baltimore-Washington corridor, and they included Montgomery County, where support ran 2 to 1.
The Dream Act passed statewide by a far larger margin, 58 percent to 42 percent. But the measure was approved in only seven counties and the city of Baltimore. In one of the seven, Prince George’s — the state’s second-largest jurisdiction — the margin was nearly 3 to 1.
“Maryland is a unique state in some ways,” said Paul Herrnson, director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland. “It’s very diverse . . . but the more populous parts of the state are increasingly progressive.”
A same-sex-marriage first
Before Tuesday, no state had approved same-sex marriage at the polls. Joining Maryland in that distinction were Maine and possibly Washington, where supporters of a similar measure claimed victory Wednesday as votes continued to be counted.