When supporters of underdog gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan first filtered into his election night party at the Westin Annapolis on Tuesday, they may have had their doubts about the race.
But as they scanned the big ballroom, they realized this was not a place to be nervous.
This was a place to party. All night long.
Three cash bars stocked with vodka and Kentucky bourbon flanked the back of the room. Dozens of black, red, yellow and white balloons — Maryland colors — were strung from cocktail tables. There was a buffet table fit for a wedding, featuring one dish called Rosemary Pepper Cured Roasted Baron of Beef with Glace de Viande. And then there was the soul band, a nine-piece group, fittingly called Bobby and the Believers, that specialized in hits by Donna Summer and the Commodores.
There was really never any doubt in the Hogan election party room about the evening’s outcome. Early on, around 8:45 p.m., Al Redmer Jr., the campaign coordinator, set the tone, booming: “Welcome to the Hogan-Rutherford Victory Party!”
Redmer reappeared on stage every 20 to 30 minutes, stopping Bobby and the Believers for a so he could announce the latest results from precincts around the states. Hogan, a Republican businessman from Anne Arundel County, was beating Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) by tens of thousands of votes.
The liberal and populous suburbs of Washington — Montgomery, Prince George’s — were not yet reporting most of their vote totals. It could have swung the other way. But Hogan’s people believed.
At 10:30 p.m., people were dancing to Donna Summer’s “Last Chance for Love,” when Redmer came out once again. Brown had 514,000 votes, he told people. Then he paused, before completing the update: And Hogan had 617,000!
Every time Redmer performed the routine, the room shrieked, often so loudly that the campaign officials couldn’t hear their boss’s winning margin. Tallies rolled in from Montgomery and Prince George’s, and while Hogan’s lead shrunk a little, it was soon clear that he had won.
As the night wore on, the Hogan supporters acted like they were at a friend’s wedding. People held martini glasses in one hand, and iPhones in the other. They took videos and pictures of the dancers, the multiple television reporters doing live shots, or the big screen television showing Fox News blast out the latest Republican victory somewhere else in the country.
At one point, the band played “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” by James Brown.” There’s some people having a good time out here!” the band leader boomed. “Everyone’s feelin’ good, all right?!”
The crowd roared back.
Hogan campaign officials felt more confident with each poll update. They had done an internal poll last week that showed their candidate would win by five points, but they never expected Tuesday’s victory to prove that poll was true.
By midnight, Hogan took the stage. “Tonight the voters of Maryland rejected the politics of deception and division,” the Republican said, his face beaming. “The voters showed they were completely fed up with politics as usual. Tonight, Marylanders held our leaders accountable for eight years of failed economic policy.”
He got off the stage and was immediately encircled by security officers. Erin Montgomery, a campaign official, stood by in disbelief.
For once, someone at the Hogan-Rutherford Victory Party admitted to having been in doubt. “I don’t even feel like this is real. I’m in shock,” she said. “I actually thought the race would be a lot closer.”
Several feet away, at the center of the dance floor, two Hogan supporters who had just met each other, were bumping and grinding.