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Democrats in Maryland control most of the major seats of power, except for one. Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, is up for re-election on Tuesday. And according to the polls, he is up by double digits over his Democratic challenger. Maryland is a state, by the way, that President Trump lost by more than 25 points. NPR's Brakkton Booker reports.
BRAKKTON BOOKER, BYLINE: With approval ratings hovering around 70 percent, Larry Hogan is one of the most popular governors in the country. That's got many in the state singing Hogan's praises, literally.
MARY BETH CAROZZA: (Singing) There's a good guy named Larry Hogan, who was fed up with the way our state was going.
BOOKER: At a campaign stop in Salisbury, along Maryland's conservative-leaning Eastern Shore, Mary Beth Carozza performs a song written to the "Brady Bunch" theme.
CAROZZA: (Singing) The Hogan Bunch. The Hogan Bunch.
BOOKER: Carozza is hoping to ride Hogan's coattails to a victory of her own. The state's GOP is hoping to elect her and a handful of others to bust up the Democrat's veto-proof majority in the state Senate.
LARRY HOGAN: We absolutely need to send her to the Maryland State Senate because she is never going to make a living as a singer.
BOOKER: After taking the stage, Governor Hogan highlights his accomplishments that play well with voters in this rural part of the state.
HOGAN: We've got 250 fees, 850 regulations. And you may have heard something about this - we cut tolls for the first time in 50 years by $317 million.
BOOKER: What is noticeably absent, though, was any mention of the divisiveness of national party politics. After all, Trump plays well here, and Hogan needs voters like Hala McIver. She's originally from Egypt, has been in Maryland for nearly 40 years and likes the governor's independent streak, even if it means Hogan distancing himself from the president.
HALA MCIVER: I'm for Trump. He doesn't like him, and that's fine with me. I respect that.
BOOKER: Hogan won't go out of his way to criticize Trump, but, when prodded, like he was during a debate in September, he has a ready list to tick through.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
HOGAN: Well, I - you know, I would tell him that he's his own worst enemy and that he should stop tweeting.
BOOKER: Hogan says he stood up to Trump when the president wanted to nix federal funds for Chesapeake Bay cleanup. And...
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
HOGAN: I was the only governor in America to withdraw troops from the border when he was separating families. So there's not a whole lot of things that I have in common with the president.
BOOKER: Larry Stafford disagrees. He heads the group Progressive Maryland.
LARRY STAFFORD: He can play a nice political game and say that he is distanced from Donald Trump, but he's not someone who's going to stand up when Donald Trump is at his worst.
BOOKER: Stafford is backing Hogan's opponent, former NAACP President Ben Jealous. But despite Democrats outnumbering Republicans in Maryland by a 2-to-1 margin, Jealous is trailing by about 20 points in the polls and has been heavily outspent this campaign. Here's Jealous speaking on WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show.
(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE KOJO NNAMDI SHOW")
BEN JEALOUS: Politics always comes down to a battle between organized money and organized people. And if I was like Larry Hogan and was out there willing to take corporate contributions, which I don't, or take corporate PAC contributions, which I don't, perhaps we would have more money, too.
BOOKER: While progressives try to link Hogan to Trump, other Democrats welcome him with open arms. At a rally in the left-leaning and vote-rich Montgomery County, Hogan is endorsed by the Democratic mayor of Gaithersburg, Jud Ashman.
JUD ASHMAN: I've been asked a lot lately how I, as a Democrat, could even consider voting for a Republican during this Trump era.
BOOKER: Taking the stage, the governor stands above a sign that reads, Democrats for Hogan. Hogan tells the crowd not to let party labels influence their votes.
HOGAN: It's one of the things that I'm disgusted with. And quite frankly, I think we're setting an example for the rest of the nation about how you can work together to get things done.
BOOKER: If Hogan wins, he'll be the first Republican governor to win re-election in 64 years. Brakkton Booker, NPR News.
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