How Larry Hogan used tax data to turn Maryland red

National political pundits have described Maryland’s gubernatorial election, in which Republican Larry Hogan defeated Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, as a “nuclear explosion.” Conventional political wisdom indicated a GOP spark was not possible in blue-state Maryland, much less an explosion. What set it off?

Before launching a formal campaign bid, Hogan set up what amounted to an exploratory committee. Instead of following the typical campaign script of announcing a possible run and then gauging the reaction among donors, the media and potential supporters, Hogan launched Change Maryland two years ago, attracting over 125,000 social media followers.

This set up a media platform enabling the future candidate to get out some sobering facts about Maryland’s economy. The problem in Maryland for any Republican eying statewide office is that elected officials like Gov. Martin O’Malley, whose term began in 2007 with Lt. Gov. Brown, controlled mainstream media and the resulting narrative portraying the state as a beacon of prosperity. Anyone who spent time in Maryland knew better.

In western Maryland, people talk about moving to Pennsylvania where one can find work on the Fracking Jobs website. Or take the Washington suburbs, where businesses such as defense contractor Northrop Grumman opt to set up new headquarters in Virginia, not Maryland. Retirees go to Delaware, where there is no sales tax, or to Florida, where there is no income tax. But this was only anecdotal evidence which amounted to partisan whining as far as the media were concerned, and was no match for the barrage of “official” information put out by the O’Malley administration and spoon-fed to the press.