COLLEGE PARK, Md.—For weeks, possibly months, the talk had been how Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown would soon become the nation’s third black governor. Those dreams were dashed Nov. 4 as Brown, a Democrat, was narrowly defeated by Republican candidate Larry Hogan to win the Maryland gubernatorial election. Hogan’s victory in a state where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 2 to1 was a huge upset.
Brown, Maryland’s lieutenant governor, was heavily favored when the election season began. Hogan, an Anne Arundel businessman, gained momentum in recent weeks, emphasizing his plan to cut taxes.
The defeat ends Brown’s hope, at least temporarily, of becoming the first African-American governor of Maryland.
“Tonight fell short of our campaign goal,” Brown said to a crowd at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center on the campus of the University of Maryland in his concession speech. “But it does not and cannot diminish the work that each and every one of you all has done in our communities.”
Hogan is the first Republican to win the Maryland governorship since Robert Ehrlich in 2002. Before him was Spiro Agnew, in 1967.
While Brown was favored to win, polls showed that the lead had become increasingly slim as Election Day approached. As more precincts were reporting, a full crowd dwindled before Brown even emerged to give his concession speech.
Mike Brown, 45, is an electrician who has lived in Maryland his entire life. He believes Brown’s defeat is more about what Hogan did than what Brown didn’t do.
“More people came out for Hogan,” he said a disheartened. “I think Brown had a good campaign, but he lost.”
To some, the number of registered voters who went to the polls was the difference.
Holli Holliday, a chief consultant at Holliday Advisors LLC, follows Maryland politics as a political strategist. She said she believes that voter turnout, particularly in Maryland’s most populated counties, was the difference.
“The Brown campaign took Baltimore County for granted,” Holliday said. “There was not a lot of energy focused on the big counties. They should’ve focused on their backyard.”
Brown, who represented Prince George’s County while serving in the Maryland House of Delegates, held Prince George’s County but lost Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.
Aisha Braveboy is the chair of the Maryland Black Caucus. She said Brown’s defeat is a wake-up call for Democrats not just in Maryland but across the country.
“We had a message that didn’t resonate with the majority of voters who went to the polls,” Braveboy said. “Democrats haven’t done well reaching out to their base.”
Brown, the son of a Jamaican father and Swiss mother, attended Harvard University on a ROTC scholarship prior to serving five years of active duty before returning to Harvard for law school. He was elected to the Maryland General Assembly in 1998, but continued to serve in the military.
Brown previously served two terms in the Maryland House of Delegates prior to taking his current post. Under current governor Martin O’Malley, he’s led efforts to expand and improve health care, support economic development, and provide better resources and services to Veterans.
While Brown was criticized for the “botched” rollout of the state’s Affordable Care exchange, Hogan made the race about taxes, trying to convince voters that electing Brown was tantamount to electing O’Malley—who has met his term limits—again.
Clarevonte Williams, 22, is a senior at Morgan State University in Baltimore said Brown’s loss was disappointing, because he had supported him since last December.
“Hogan had the numbers, it’s as simple as that,” Williams said.