Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown won the Democratic gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, capturing a huge margin of votes after a bitter nominating contest. He will face Republican nominee Larry Hogan, a businessman in Anne Arundel County, in the November general election.
Brown received about twice as many votes as Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who was holding a small but significant lead over Del. Heather R. Mizeur (Montgomery) with about 80 percent of precincts reporting.
In the heated race to succeed Gansler as attorney general, Sen. Brian E. Frosh (Montgomery) emerged victorious over his chief Democratic rival, Del. Jon S. Cardin (Baltimore County), who was well ahead of the third Democratic hopeful, Del. Aisha N. Braveboy (Prince George’s) with 80 percent of precincts reporting.
Brown’s supporters celebrated at a victory party in College Park, roaring with applause and cheers as results flashed on television screens. Gansler and Mizeur both told their supporters that they had called Brown to congratulate him on his victory.
Brown thanked those who turned out for their dedication and began to rally them for the general election contest. The state’s voter registration is in his favor, as Democrats out number Republicans more than 2-to-1 in Maryland.
“In November, Marylanders will have a real choice between returning to the failed Republican policies of record spending and corporate tax giveaways, or standing with us as we write the next chapter in Maryland by strengthening middle-class families and growing our economy,” Brown said.
Hogan gathered with about 100 supporters outside his campaign headquarters near Annapolis and spent nearly his entire victory speech attacking Brown’s record. Hogan promised that if he becomes governor, he will focus on middle-class families, jobs, and bolstering the economy. He said he wants to curb spending that he views as wasteful and “roll back” some 40 tax increases.
“This is a fight for Maryland’s future, and it’s a fight worth fighting,” Hogan said. He said Brown and Gov. Martin O’Malley “have a failed record of lost businesses, lost jobs, wasteful spending, record tax increases, and broken promises.”
The mood was far less celebratory at the Bethesda hotel where Gansler gathered with his supporters.
“We fell short today not because of lack of hard work or conviction or dedication,” Gansler said. “We worked hard. We all worked. But tomorrow we wake up, we shake off the dust and each do what we can to help others build a better life here in Maryland. That’s our mission, that’s our cause and that’s our fight.”
Gansler said that the low voter turnout is a sign that state leaders cannot ignore. “People are very frustrated in our state,” he said. “The middle class is being squeezed by taxes going up and getting less from a government that’s supposed to work for them.”
“There were a lot of skeptics who said I would never make it this far,” Mizeur told the crowd at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. “People who lead from fear told me to get back in line. But together, we showed them the power a movement can have when we work together for positive change.”
Turnout at most polling places was low throughout the day, and many voters were unenthusiastic as they weighed their options for candidates for governor, attorney general and a long list of other state and local leadership positions. There were pockets of excitement: Many black voters in Prince George’s County and elsewhere said they were thrilled to vote for Brown, who would be the state’s first African American governor. And there was a rush of momentum surrounding the underdog gubernatorial candidacy of Mizeur, who would have been the nation’s first openly gay governor.
But most precincts reported lackluster turnout, often seeing only a few hundred voters showing up by the afternoon.
“This is a very low key year,” said Mary Nelson, an election judge at the Village Baptist Church in Bowie, which had about 100 voters by lunchtime. “It’s going to be a minority of a minority of a minority that are voting in this primary.”
At several precincts knowledge of local races was low. There were lots of complaints about the negativity of the race waged by Brown and Gansler.
“I’m not happy with any of them,” said Jo Michaux, 76, who was voting near her home in the Leisure World retirement community in Silver Spring. She said she was worn out by what she saw as too much negativity and chose “the lesser of the evils” — but would not say who.
Retired teacher Agnes Robinson said she went to the polls at the Evangel Cathedral in Upper Marlboro for one reason: “I want to make sure Anthony Brown wins.”
Robinson, 78, said she supported Brown, a fellow county resident, because of his proposals to improve schools and expand early childhood education.
Every seat in the Maryland General Assembly is up for a vote, and all eight of Maryland’s members of Congress handily won their primaries. There were nominating contests for several seats on the Montgomery County and Prince George’s County councils and school boards as well.
In the Montgomery County executive’s race, incumbent Isiah “Ike” Leggett had a wide lead in his bid for the Democratic nomination for a third term, according to the early voting tallies. Former county executive Doug Duncan was a distant second, and County Council member Phil Andrews (Rockville-Gaithersburg) was third.
Marilynn Bland, the combative clerk of the Circuit Court in Prince George’s County, lagged challenger Sydney Harrison in the Democratic primary.
Brown will have a strong advantage over the Republican nominee in November’s general election, given that Democrats outnumber Republicans in Maryland by more than 2 to 1.
Joanne Alloway, 66, a semi-retired writer, said she voted for Hogan because he seemed most likely of all the GOP hopefuls to win in the general election.
“He has the best shot and has the most consensus in the Republican party,” she said, after voting at Annapolis High School. “We have extremely high taxes. This county is pretty Republican in a Democratic state, so we have to do what we can.”
Joanie Stone of Anne Arundel County said that she voted for Hogan, a local businessman, because she liked his campaign ads and automated phone calls to her home, even if she couldn’t remember the specifics.
“I haven’t heard anything negative about him,” she said, “and he didn’t get caught up in any back-and-forth.”
Kerridwen Henry, 37, a former Montgomery County school teacher who lives in Burtonsville,said she voted for Mizeur because her campaign has been transparent.
“I believe she has integrity,” she said. “She will vote for what is right even if it does not seem popular.”
But Vicki Allen, also a retired Montgomery teacher who voted at the same Burtonsville poll, said she planned to vote for Brown — partly because Mizeur made legalization of marijuana too prominent an issue.
Gansler and his wife, Laura, voted late Tuesday morning at Thomas W. Pyle Middle School in Bethesda. While there, Gansler ran into several former neighbors and friends of his parents, many of whom ventured to the polls in a senior center van. He also snapped a selfie with a group of young male supporters.
“We’re very, very optimistic from what we’re hearing,” Gansler said. “They’re squeezing the middle class out of our state. And this is an opportunity to make a change.”
Claudine Ostrow, 77, a retired flight attendant who lives at Leisure World, said she voted for Gansler because she liked his stances on issues — and because she did not appreciate the constant negative attacks on him. One example: reports that Gansler told the state trooper tasked with driving him around to speed to routine appointments.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “So what?”
In addition to the gubernatorial and attorney general races, every seat in the Maryland General Assembly is up for a vote. There were nominating contests for Montgomery County executive, and for several seats on the Montgomery County and Prince George’s County councils and school boards as well.
Laura Welch,62, said she and other members of the Progressive Neighbors group resolved to vote for Frosh for attorney general because — as chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee — he helped reduce inequality in schools, improve universal healthcare and public transport.
“He helped pass policies that serve the people and not the developers. He has pushed for greater voice for all… and reduction of inequality based on race, gender and sexual orientation,” Welch said.
Jayne Howell Johns, a Democrat in Prince George’s County, said that she voted for Braveboy, who attended Howard University Law school with her son.
“I don’t think she has much backing,” she said. “She has pull in Prince George’s, and I wish her well but I don’t think she will get it this time.”
Democrat Vernon Webb voted for Cardin at a Fort Washington polling place, and said he thinks the gun control measures championed by Frosh went too far.
“I’m for some gun control but the law is overbearing and hurts those of us who are law-abiding,” he said. “There are better ways to deal with it.”
More than half of registered voters in a Washington Post poll from early June said they were not paying attention to the gubernatorial race, and Maryland officials and political experts have warned that turnout for this primary could be much lower than in past years. But the state has gotten a head start on collecting ballots, thanks to eight days of early voting. More than 105,300 Democrats and 34,000 Republicans — which is about 4 percent of eligible registered voters — cast early ballots.
The precise reasons that voters seemed less engaged — despite millions spent by candidates on television ads — are not clear. Part of the problem could be timing. This is the first time Maryland has held a June primary; the nominating contests previously took place in September. Maryland moved up the primary so that election officials have more time to prepare General Election ballots to send to troops overseas. But registered voters also say they are busy, tired of politics or turned off by the negative tone of some of the campaigns.
At the Federal Hill Preparatory School in Baltimore Tuesday morning, only a dozen or so people voted in the first hour the polls were open. Charles “Chuck” Bernstein (D), a retired Baltimore Circuit Court judge running to be a judge on the Orphans Court, said one factor was that all three Democratic gubernatorial candidates are from the Washington suburbs.
“It used to be that Baltimore was the center of the state,” said Bernstein, 74.
Mike Green, a 57-year-old attorney, cast his ballot for Brown but said, “There’s not a lot to get excited about.”
“Nothing bad is going to happen with [Brown] in office,” Green said. “And for Maryland right now, I think that’s a good thing.”
Lynh Bui, Hamil R. Harris, Fredrick Kunkle, Peter Hermann, Arelis Hernandez, Harry Misiko, Ileana Najarro, Wesley Robinson, Ian Shapira, Donna St. George , Bill Turque and Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.