Sabato’s Crystal Ball: Maryland 2022 gubernatorial race ‘leans Democratic’

Larry Hogan and Peter Franchot

Famed political science professor Dr. Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a nonpartisan political analysis and handicapping newsletter run by the University of Virginia Center for Politics, predicts Maryland’s next governor will be a Democrat.

The latest edition of Sabato’s often-quoted political newsletter analyzed the national gubernatorial landscape taking shape in 2022: “38 states will see gubernatorial races over the next two years; Democrats currently hold 18 of the seats that will be contested while the GOP holds 20,” writes J. Miles Coleman, the Center for Politics’ associate editor.

“Aside from Maryland, no statehouses are initially favored to flip — but surprises are surely coming,” predicts the Crystal Ball. Maryland, Coleman writes, “is the only state we see changing hands right off the bat.”

But first, a brief snippet of political history that is all-too-familiar to astute followers of Maryland politics.

“Now-outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) was one of 2014’s upset winners. That year, Hogan made fiscal restraint a centerpiece of his campaign and had the good fortune of running against then-Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D-MD) — Brown was widely criticized for his handling of the state’s Obamacare exchange.”

Hogan won re-election in 2018 against former NAACP Chief Ben Jealous, “an underfunded Democratic challenger,” the Crystal Ball points out, becoming “Maryland’s first Republican governor since 1954 to secure reelection.”

Can/will a Republican succeed Hogan?

Not likely, the Crystal Ball predicts.

“Though Hogan, who has emerged as one of the most prominent voices in the anti-Trump faction of the GOP, was able to find success, he’ll likely have a tougher time trying to dictate his successor.”

Mr. Hogan’s loyal number-two, Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford (R), “may be an attractive candidate,” the newsletter highlights, though Rutherford, if he runs for governor in 2022, may fall victim to the curse of his current statewide office: “Maryland voters have never elevated an incumbent lieutenant governor to the state’s top job.”

Rutherford is said to be considering a 2022 gubernatorial bid.

Anybody else?

Only one Republican so far – former Maryland state Del. Robin Ficker of Montgomery County – is officially in the race.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) for governor? 

“With Democrats in charge of the state’s redistricting process, the lone Republican in Maryland’s congressional delegation, Rep. Andy Harris (R, MD-1), may very well get a blue district,” the Crystal Ball postulates.

“This may push Harris to consider running statewide, though he’s much more conservative than Hogan.”

Mr. Harris, breaking his own self-imposed term limits pledge, vows to seek a seventh House term in 2022.

Several Democrats are eager to oppose Harris in the top-heavy Republican district, including the entire Eastern Shore, Cecil County, Harford County, and parts of Baltimore and Carroll Counties.

The race “Leans Democrat,” but which one?

“Of the few announced Democratic candidates, state Comptroller Peter Franchot leads the field,” Coleman writes.

How about another round of Maryland political history?

“First elected to public office in 1986, Franchot has carved out a niche as something of a moderate Democrat who will take on his own party. From an electoral perspective, this approach seems a hit with voters: in 2018, he was reelected 72%-28%, the best showing for a statewide Democrat since 1990.”

Several prominent state Democrats will soon officially launch their gubernatorial bids.

Only one other Democrat besides Franchot, however, is an officially declared candidate: 31-year-old Ashwani Jain.

“Aside from Franchot, there is no shortage of Democrats who could run in this blue state, the Crystal Ball concludes.

A Miner Detail was the first media outlet to report Franchot’s official entrance into Maryland’s 2022 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

The Crystal Ball kicker: “We think any competent Democrat would be favored over a generic Republican. Hence, our Leans Democratic rating.”

Ryan Miner is the Editor of A Miner Detail, a leading Maryland politics blog and multimedia news hub. He is the host of A Miner Detail Podcast. News tips and feedback:

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