ANNAPOLIS – Despite about an hour of sleep, an energized Maryland governor-elect Larry Hogan Jr. livened a conference room at the Westin Hotel in Annapolis Wednesday morning with cordial anecdotes and a down-to-business outlook.
“Today we turn a new chapter; the campaign is over,” Hogan said to a group of weary-eyed supporters, who greeted him with applause and cheers. “Now, the governing begins.”
With the conclusion of a surprisingly successful campaign late Tuesday night, the Republican Hogan had a moment during his hour of rest early Wednesday morning to recollect and relish winning the Maryland gubernatorial election.
“My wife and I looked at each other this morning, and I said, ‘Good morning, First Lady,’ and she said, ‘Good morning, Governor,” Hogan said. “It was an interesting feeling.”
In a stunning upset, Hogan defeated Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who until very recently had been leading in most polls in the heavily blue state, by more than 4 percentage points.
“I was very impressed with how well this campaign was run; very clean with a lot of hard work,” said retired school teacher Gail Romain, who attended Wednesday’s news conference in support of Hogan. “I think this makes a statement about how much Maryland wants and needs change.”
Hogan recapped the dramatic night, full of congratulatory phone calls from local and national politicians, including Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, who declared his full cooperation during the transfer of power, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Christie, who is chairman of the Republican Governors’ Association, was extremely excited about Hogan’s victory, calling it one of the biggest upsets in the country, and said he wanted to fly to Annapolis to celebrate at the administration’s headquarters, Hogan recalled.
“He told me it would be an hour, and I said, ‘We just can’t wait that long,”Hogan said.
“We are as happy as we are tired,” said Hogan campaign victory director Kevin Conroy, 34, from Arlington, Virginia. “I’m incredibly proud of our staff and volunteers. Everyone worked so hard, but it makes it easier when you actually like the candidate.”
“We got outspent by Brown, not to mention he has an army of staff,” said Hogan’s deputy political director Paul Beatty, 24, from Annapolis. “We just had a small staff that worked incredibly hard.”
Even amid registered Democrats who outnumber Republicans 2 to 1 in Maryland, Hogan said, he remained confident in his chances because of the conversations he had with Maryland residents who told him they felt disconnected from their state government.
“The pollsters and the pundits and the talking heads and the media all seem to talk to each other, and it creates sort of an echo chamber,” Hogan said. “I was talking to Marylanders. What we were hearing, from everywhere, was an overwhelming sense of frustration.”
In a heavily blue state, Hogan ran an increasingly competitive campaign, pushing pro-business policies and cuts to O’Malley’s string of tax increases, while downplaying social issues.
Hogan said he plans to work efficiently with the Democratic leaders in the State House, including Comptroller Peter Franchot, whom some pundits are pointing to now as the most powerful Democrat in the state.
“He actually has been agreeing with me for the past three years, sounding the alarms and talking about the fact that the chickens have come home to roost, that we spend too much, we tax too much and we borrow too much,” Hogan said. “He’s been a lone voice of the Board of Public Works.”
Hogan told reporters a handful of times that he would not field specific questions regarding policy and tax reform right after election night, but made clear his determination to “get things done in a bipartisan fashion,” cut spending and “roll back as many of the 40 consecutive tax hikes as we can.”
Hogan is preparing a “transition team,” comprised of Republicans and Democrats, to help ease into the governor’s role. The team will be co-chaired by Jim Brady, who headed up the transition teams for past governors Parris Glendening, a Democrat, and Bob Ehrlich, a Republican; and lieutenant governor-elect Boyd Rutherford.
-Capital News Service correspondent Dani Shae Thompson contributed to this report.