June 25

JUDGING BY the anemic turnout in Maryland’s gubernatorial primaries on Tuesday — scarcely more than a fifth of each party’s eligible voters went to the polls — the candidates failed to inspire much excitement. In a state dominated by Democrats, who outnumber demoralized Republicans 2 to 1, much of the electorate seems like bystanders on the sidelines of an epic mismatch.

Still, it is encouraging that the winners of each gubernatorial primary, who will meet in November’s general election, are sane, sensible and experienced politicians aware that Maryland faces serious challenges in maintaining its relative prosperity.

Neither Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, the Democratic nominee, nor former state appointments secretary Larry Hogan, the Republican choice, has missed the main problems facing the state. A federal government in sequestration-mandated retreat and a business climate judged unfriendly by many employers have imperiled Maryland’s prospects for job growth and economic health.

In a survey last year by Forbes magazine on business climate, Maryland ranked 18th among the states. Virginia, its rival in attracting employers and jobs, was No. 1. What’s more, Maryland’s high taxes and red tape saddled it with rankings of 42nd in business costs and 40th in regulatory environment. It escaped an overall ranking in the bottom quintile thanks only to its highly rated workforce and quality of life, both of which are threatened by job stagnation. In a survey this spring, large numbers of residents said they would leave the state if they could.

We supported many of the tax increases promoted during the past eight years by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Mr. Brown. They helped the state maintain good schools and replenish the fund for building roads and mass transit. Given their cumulative effect, we also believe Mr. Brown is right to temper the ambition of any promises that would require further increases in tax revenue. He has embraced expanding pre-kindergarten programs, but only gradually, while promising to beef up vocational programs. That’s a modest agenda, but it is a realistic one.


Bill Boteler votes in the state's primary elections at the Annapolis Middle School, Tuesday, June 24, 2014, in Annapolis, Md. (Joshua Mckerrow/AP)

Mr. Hogan, who recognizes that strident anti-government dogma is anathema in Maryland’s political culture, is a conservative who professes to understand how to govern by consensus. No bomb-thrower, he avoided promises like those made by his GOP rivals to gut the state’s revenue base. Instead, he proposed a relatively measured 5 percent cut in spending, but he failed to specify where he would make those cuts other than by scouring state agencies in search of “efficiencies.”

The candidates must add meat to the somewhat skeletal programs they are peddling. For Mr. Hogan, that means giving voters a more substantive idea of what he intends to do on education, health care and the environment. For Mr. Brown, it means explaining in more detail how he intends to create the economic conditions to sustain the state’s current spending trajectory. If each candidate fleshes out a plausible program, Marylanders will have more reason to vote this fall.