Will the last Democratic governor please turn out the lights?
Republicans didn’t just win statewide elections in safe red states like Arkansas or with imperiled incumbents in swing states such as Florida on Tuesday but they won seats in seemingly safe Democratic states like Illinois and Maryland in what has shaping up to be an utter rout.
In Illinois, embattled Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn lost his bid for re-election against Bruce Rauner. Despite the state’s Democratic lean, Quinn faced an uphill battle as an unpopular governor who alienated both sides of the aisle by raising taxes and fighting public employee unions. Quinn lost every country outside of Chicago in a surprising loss. However, Quinn can hold his head high in one regard. It’s rare that an incumbent governor in Illinois leaves office without wearing handcuffs.
Perhaps the biggest upset in the night was in deep-blue Maryland, where Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown lost a shocker to Republican Larry Hogan. Hogan, who had never held elected office, won by five points over Brown in what had been assumed to be a safe Democratic state. In fact, Hogan is only the third Republican governor in the past 50 years. The first, Spiro Agnew, won in 1966 as the liberal running against a segregationist Democrat. The second, Bob Ehrlich, was the most talented Republican politician in a generation in the Old Line State and eked out a victory over Kathleen Kennedy Townshend, a deeply flawed scion of the Kennedy dynasty.
In contrast, there was nothing special about Hogan. He was a relatively unimpressive Republican running against a relatively unimpressive Democrat. But, in a wave election for the GOP where Democrats weren’t able to energize their base, that was enough.
Republicans picked up plenty of other scalps tonight. In New England alone, they surprisingly held in the Maine governor’s race, won an open seat in Massachusetts and came a hair short of a shocking upset in granola-loving Vermont. But, by winning governor’s mansions in Illinois, Barack Obama’s home state, not to mention deep-blue Maryland, the GOP picked up some truly astounding wins on Tuesday.