How Republican Larry Hogan won the Maryland governor race
Larry Hogan was facing a very steep uphill from the beginning. Registered Democratic voters outnumber registered Republican voters in Maryland by over 2 to 1, and Hogan was well outspent by Brown. In the end, it came down to these two issues that helped Hogan win, fighting higher taxes and winning women voters.
Current Maryland governor Martin O'Malley is a Democrat for two terms (8 years). He did create much controversy by raising taxes quite a lot and quite a bit. He signed increases for personal income taxes paid by high earners, the corporate income tax, sales tax, gas tax, tobacco tax and alcohol tax. Maryland voters stated in polls that their number one concern was the high taxes in Maryland. Larry Hogan paid attention well and campaigned on pledging no new taxes, and repealing governor O'Malley's tax hikes.
On the other hand, Anthony Brown did not make his position known on taxes. As Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, he worked very closely with Martin O'Malley. Because his stance on taxes were unknown, voters assumed Anthony Brown would keep all of O'Malley's tax hikes and even hike more taxes higher. When polls showed Brown was losing later in the campaign, Brown finally made a "no new taxes" pledge, but it was too late.
The second reason Larry Hogan won was by copying the Democrat's successful formula of winning women voters. Hogan didn't win the majority of the women vote, but he did win enough women votes to significantly close the gender gap, which is a tremendous victory for a Republican in a liberal state.
The Democrats did initially portray Larry Hogan as a misogynist who wants to ban birth control and abortion. It worked early in the campaign, but Hogan's campaign team fought back. Hogan appeared in numerous commercials and videos denying those false misogynist charges, and had his daughter and other women vouching for Hogan as a supporter of women's rights. It worked and Hogan, while he did not win the majority, won just a few points shy of the majority of the women's vote. This is remarkable for a Republican.
Another reason Hogan did well with women voters was the tax issue. Women and men voters in Maryland listed relief from high taxes as their number one priority, and Larry Hogan campaigned on that priority.
For Democrats, watch your stance on taxes. There's only two major political parties out there, so if you raise taxes, the Republicans will be the party of lower taxes. Taxing the rich may made sense several years ago when Bush's failed tax cut policies for the rich destroyed the economy and drove up debts. But now that most of Bush's tax cuts for the rich are gone for good, debts are declining, and the economy is improving, tax hikes are going to be a very negative impact for the candidate and the party your candidate represents.