It was the seventh state to ratify the United States Constitution and bears two nicknames, the Old Line State and the Free State. Its history as a border state has led it to exhibit characteristics of both the Northern and Southern regions of the United States. Generally, the rural Western, Southern and Eastern Shore regions of Maryland reflect a Southern culture, while densely-populated Central Marylandradiating outward from Baltimore City and the Washington Beltwayexhibit characteristics of the Northeast.
Maryland is a life sciences hub with over 350 biotechnology firms, making it the third-largest such cluster in the nation. Institutions and agencies located throughout Maryland include the University System of Maryland, The Johns Hopkins University, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Celera Genomics, Human Genome Sciences (HGS), the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), MedImmune (recently purchased by AstraZeneca), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
Maryland is bounded on the north by Pennsylvania, on the west by West Virginia, on the east by Delaware and the Atlantic Ocean, and on the south, across the Potomac River, by West Virginia and Virginia. The mid-portion of this border is interrupted on the Maryland side by Washington, DC, which sits on land that was originally part of Maryland. The Chesapeake Bay nearly bisects the state, and the counties east of the bay are known collectively as the Eastern Shore. Most of the state's waterways are part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, with the exceptions of a portion of Garrett County (drained by the Youghiogheny River as part of the watershed of the Mississippi River), the eastern half of Worcester County (which drains into Maryland's Atlantic coastal bays), and a small portion of the state's northeast corner (which drains into the Delaware River watershed). So prominent is the Chesapeake in Maryland's geography and economic life that there has been periodic agitation to change the state's official nickname to the "Bay State," a name currently used by Massachusetts.
The highest point in Maryland is Hoye Crest on Backbone Mountain, in the southwest corner of Garrett County, near the border with West Virginia and near the headwaters of the North Branch of the Potomac River. Maryland's only ski area, Wisp, is located close to Backbone Mountain. Close to the small town of Hancock, in western Maryland, about two-thirds of the way across the state, the state is only about wide. This geographical curiosity makes Maryland the narrowest state, bordered by the Mason-Dixon Line to the north, and the north-arching Potomac River to the south.
Portions of Maryland are included in various official and unofficial geographic regions. For example, the Delmarva Peninsula comprises the Eastern Shore counties of Maryland, the entire State of Delaware, and the two counties that make up the Eastern Shore of Virginia, while the westernmost counties of Maryland are considered part of Appalachia. Much of the Baltimore-Washington corridor lies just south of the piedmont in the Coastal Plain, though it straddles the border between the two regions.
A quirk of Maryland's geography is that the state contains no natural lakes. During the last Ice Age, glaciers did not reach as far south as Maryland, and therefore did not carve out deep natural lakes as exist in northern states. There are numerous man-made lakes, the largest being Deep Creek Lake, a reservoir in Garrett County. The lack of glacial history also accounts for Maryland's soil, which is more sandy and muddy than the rocky soils of New England.
The majority of Maryland's population is concentrated in the cities and suburbs surrounding Washington, DC and Maryland's most populous city, Baltimore. Historically, these and many other Maryland cities developed along the fall line, the point at which rivers are no longer navigable from sea level due to the presence of rapids or waterfalls. Maryland's capital, Annapolis, is one exception to this rule, lying along the Severn River close to where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay. Other major population centers include suburban hubs Columbia in Howard County, Silver Spring, Rockville and Gaithersburg in Montgomery County, Frederick in Frederick County and Hagerstown in Washington County. The eastern, southern, and western portions of the state tend to be more rural, although they are dotted with cities of regional importance such as Salisbury and Ocean City on the Eastern Shore, Lexington Park and Waldorf in Southern Maryland, and Cumberland in Western Maryland.
The eastern half of Maryland lies on the Atlantic Coastal Plain, with very flat topography and very sandy or muddy soil. This region has a humid subtropical climate, with hot, humid summers and a short, mild to cool winter. This region includes the cities of Salisbury, Annapolis, Ocean City, and southern and eastern greater Baltimore.
Beyond this region lies the Piedmont which lies in the transition between the humid subtropical climate zone and the humid continental climate zone (Köppen Dfa), with hot, humid summers and moderately cold winters where average annual snowfall exceeds 20 inches and temperatures below 10°F are annual occurrences. This region includes Frederick, Hagerstown, Westminster, Gaithersburg and northern and western greater Baltimore.
Extreme western Maryland, in the higher elevations of Allegany County and Garrett County lie completely in the Humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa) due to elevation (more typical of inland New England and the Midwestern U.S.) with milder summers and cold, snowy winters. Some parts of extreme western Maryland possess the cool summer Humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb), with summer average temperatures below 71 °F.
Precipitation in the state is very generous, as it is on most of the East Coast. Annual rainfall ranges from 40-45 inches (1000-1150 mm) in virtually every part of the state, falling very evenly. Nearly every part of Maryland receives 3.5-4.5 inches (95-110 mm) per month of precipitation. Snowfall varies from 9 inches (23 cm) in the coastal areas to over 100 inches (250 cm) a winter in the western mountains of the state.
Because of its location near the Atlantic Coast, Maryland is somewhat vulnerable to tropical cyclones, although the Delmarva Peninsula, and the outer banks of North Carolina to the south provide a large buffer, such that a strike from a major hurricane (category 3 or above) is not very likely. More often, Maryland might get the remnants of a tropical system which has already come ashore and released most of its energy. Maryland averages around 30-40 days of thunderstorms a year, and averages around 6 tornado strikes annually.
|Monthly normal high and low temperatures for various Maryland cities|
As is typical of states on the East Coast, Maryland's plant life is abundant and healthy. A good dose of annual precipitation helps to support many types of plants, including seagrass and various reeds at the smaller end of the spectrum to the gigantic Wye Oak, a huge example of White oak, the state tree, which can grow in excess of 70 feet (20 m) tall. Maryland also possesses an abundance of pines and maples among its endemic tree life. Many foreign species are cultivated in the state, some as ornamentals, others as novelty species. Included among these are the Crape Myrtle, Italian Cypress, live oak in the warmer parts of the state, and even hardy palm trees in the warmer central and eastern parts of the state. USDA plant hardiness zones in the state range from Zone 5 in the extreme western part of the state to 6 and 7 in the central part, and Zone 8 around the southern part of the coast, the bay area, and most of metropolitan Baltimore. Large areas of Maryland have problems with kudzu, an invasive plant species that chokes out growth of endemic plant life. Maryland's state flower, the Black-eyed Susan, grows in abundance in wild flower groups throughout the state where it often becomes a favorite of the state insect, the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly.
The state harbors a great number of deer, particularly in the woody and mountainous west of the state, and overpopulation can become a problem from year-to-year. The Chesapeake Bay provides the state with its huge cash crop of blue crabs, rockfish, and numerous seabirds. Mammals can be found ranging from the mountains in the west to the central areas and include bears, mountain lions, foxes, raccoons, and Otters. Maryland is famous for its population of rare wild horses found on Assateague island. Every year an event occurs during which members of the horse population are captured and waded across a shallow bay to Chincoteague, Virginia. This conservation technique ensures the tiny island is not overrun by the horses. Another purebred animal from Maryland is the Chesapeake Bay Retriever dog, which was bred specifically for water sports, hunting and search and rescue in the Chesapeake area. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever was also the first breed recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1878. Maryland's reptile and amphibian population is led by the Diamondback Terrapin turtle, which was adopted as the mascot of University of Maryland. The state also hosts the Baltimore Oriole, which is the official state bird and mascot of the MLB team the Baltimore Orioles.
Lawns in Maryland carry a variety of species, mostly due to its location in the Transition Zone for lawngrasses. The western part of the state is cold enough to support Kentucky Bluegrass, and Fine Fescues, which are widespread from the foothills west. The area around the Chesapeake Bay is usually turfed with transition species such as Zoysia, Tall fescue, and Bermudagrass. St. Augustine grass can be grown in the parts of the state that are in Zone 8.
In 1629, George Calvert, 1st Lord Baltimore in the Irish House of Lords, fresh from his failure further north with Newfoundland's Avalon colony, applied to Charles I for a new royal charter for what was to become the Province of Maryland. Calvert's interest in creating a colony derived from his Catholicism and his desire for the creation of a haven for Catholics in the new world. In addition, he was familiar with the fortunes that had been made in tobacco in Virginia, and hoped to recoup some of the financial losses he had sustained in his earlier colonial venture in Newfoundland. George Calvert died in April 1632, but a charter for "Maryland Colony" (in Latin, "Terra Maria") was granted to his son, Cæcilius Calvert, 2nd Lord Baltimore, on June 20, 1632. The new colony was named in honor of Henrietta Maria, Queen Consort of Charles I. The specific name given in the charter was phrased "Terra Mariae, anglice, Maryland". The English name was preferred over the Latin due in part to the undesired association of "Mariae" with the Spanish Jesuit Juan de Mariana. Leonard, Cecilius' younger brother, was put in charge of the expedition because Cecilius did not want to go.
To try to gain settlers, Maryland used what is known as the headright system, which originated in Jamestown. The government awarded land to people who transported colonists to Maryland.
On March 25, 1634, Lord Baltimore sent the first settlers into this area. Although most of the settlers were Protestants, Maryland soon became one of the few regions in the British Empire where Catholics held the highest positions of political authority. Maryland was also one of the key destinations of tens of thousands of British convicts. The Maryland Toleration Act of 1649 was one of the first laws that explicitly dictated religious tolerance, though toleration was limited to Trinitarian Christians.
The royal charter granted Maryland the Potomac River and territory northward to the fortieth parallel. This proved a problem when Charles II granted a charter for Pennsylvania, because the grants (which were made using an inaccurate map) overlapped. Maryland's northern boundary would put Philadelphia, the major city in Pennsylvania, partially within Maryland, while Pennsylvania's southern boundary would encompass much of Maryland, resulting in conflict between the Calvert family, which controlled Maryland, and the Penn family, which controlled Pennsylvania. This led to the Cresap's War (also known as the Conojocular War), a border conflict between Pennsylvania and Maryland, fought in the 1730s. Hostilities erupted in 1730 with a series of violent incidents prompted by disputes over property rights and law enforcement, and escalated through the first half of the decade, culminating in the deployment of military forces by Maryland in 1736 and by Pennsylvania in 1737. The armed phase of the conflict ended in May 1738 with the intervention of King George II, who compelled the negotiation of a cease-fire. A final settlement was not achieved until 1767, when the Mason-Dixon Line was recognized as the permanent boundary between the two colonies.
After Virginia made the practice of Anglicanism mandatory, a large number of Puritans migrated from Virginia to Maryland, and were given land for a settlement called Providence (now Annapolis). In 1650, the Puritans revolted against the proprietary government and set up a new government that outlawed both Catholicism and Anglicanism. In March 1654, the 2nd Lord Baltimore sent an army under the command of Governor William Stone to put down the revolt. His Roman Catholic army was decisively defeated by a Puritan army near Annapolis in what was to be known as the "Battle of the Severn".
The Puritan revolt lasted until 1658. In that year the Calvert family regained control of the colony and re-enacted the Toleration Act. However, after England's "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, when William of Orange and his wife Mary came to the throne and firmly established the Protestant faith in England, Catholicism was again outlawed in Maryland, until after the American Revolutionary War. Many wealthy plantation owners built chapels on their land so they could practice their Catholicism in relative secrecy. During the persecution of Maryland Catholics by the Puritan revolutionary government, all of the original Catholic churches of southern Maryland were burned down.
St. Mary's City was the largest site of the original Maryland colony, and was the seat of the colonial government until 1708. St Mary's is now an archaeological site, with a small tourist center. In 1708, the seat of government was moved to Providence, which had been renamed Annapolis. The city was renamed in honor of Queen Anne in 1694.
Most of the English colonists arrived in Maryland as indentured servants, hiring themselves out as laborers for a fixed period to pay for their passage. In the early years the line between indentured servants and African slaves or laborers was fluid. Some Africans were allowed to earn their freedom before slavery became a lifelong status. Most of the free colored families formed in Maryland before the Revolution were descended from relationships or marriages between servant or free white women and enslaved, servant or free African or African-American men. Many such families migrated to Delaware, where land was cheaper. As the flow of indentured laborers to the colony decreased with improving economic conditions in England, more slaves were imported. The economy's growth and prosperity was based on slave labor, devoted first to the production of tobacco.
Maryland was one of the thirteen colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution. On February 2, 1781, Maryland became the 13th state to approve the ratification of the Articles of Confederation which brought into being the United States as a united, sovereign and national state. It also became the seventh state admitted to the US after ratifying the new Constitution. The following year, in December 1790, Maryland ceded land selected by President George Washington to the federal government for the creation of Washington, D.C.. The land was provided from Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, as well as from Fairfax County and Alexandria in Virginia (though the lands from Virginia were later returned through retrocession). The land provided to Washington, D.C. is actually "sitting" inside the state of Maryland (land that is now defunct in theory).
During the War of 1812, the British military attempted to capture the port of Baltimore, which was protected by Fort McHenry. It was during this bombardment that the Star Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key.
Despite widespread support for the Confederate States of America among many wealthy landowners, who had a vested interest in slavery, Maryland did not secede from the Union during the American Civil War. This may be due in part to the temporary suspension of the Legislature by Governor Thomas Holliday Hicks and arrest of many of its fire eaters by President Abraham Lincoln prior to its reconvening. Many historians contend that the votes for secession would not have been there regardless of these actions. Of the 115,000 men who joined the militaries during the Civil War, 85,000, or 77%, joined the Union army. To help ensure Maryland's inclusion in the Union, President Lincoln suspended several civil liberties, including the writ of habeas corpus, an act deemed illegal by Maryland native Chief Justice Roger Taney. Lincoln ordered US troops to place artillery on Federal Hill to directly threaten the city of Baltimore, and helped to ensure the election of a new pro-union governor and legislature. President Lincoln even went so far as to jail certain pro-South members of the state legislature at Fort McHenry including the Mayor of Baltimore, George William Brown. Ironically, the grandson of Francis Scott Key was included in those jailed. The Constitutionality of these actions is still a source of controversy and debate. Because Maryland remained in the Union, it was exempted from the anti-slavery provisions of the Emancipation Proclamation (The Emancipation Proclamation only applied to states in rebellion). A constitutional convention was held during 1864 that culminated in the passage of a new state constitution on November 1 of that year. Article 24 of that document outlawed the practice of slavery. The right to vote was extended to non-white males in 1867.
As of 2006, Maryland has an estimated population of 5,615,727, which is an increase of 26,128, or 0.5%, from the prior year and an increase of 319,221, or 6.0%, since the year 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 189,158 people (that is 464,251 births minus 275,093 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 116,713 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 129,730 people, and migration within the country produced a net loss of 13,017 people.
In 2006, 645,744 were counted as foreign born, which represents mainly people from Latin America and Asia. About 4.0% are undocumented (illegal) immigrants. Maryland also has a large Korean American population. In fact, 1.7% are Korean, while as a whole, almost 6.0% are Asian.
Most of the population of Maryland lives in the central region of the state, in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area and Washington Metropolitan Area, both of which are part of the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area. The Eastern Shore is less populous and more rural, as are the counties of western and southern Maryland.
African-Americans are concentrated in Baltimore City, Prince George's County, and the southern Eastern Shore. Most of the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland are populated by Marylanders of British ancestry, with the Eastern Shore traditionally Methodist and the southern counties Catholic. Western and northern Maryland have large German-American populations. Italians and Poles are centered mostly in the large city of Baltimore. Jews are numerous throughout Montgomery County and in Pikesville northwest of Baltimore. Hispanics are numerous in Hyattsville/Langley Park, Wheaton and Gaithersburg.
Maryland has one of the largest proportions of racial minorities in the country, trailing only the four minority-majority states.
|Religions in Maryland|
|Baptist||18%||Other Christian||3%||Other Religions||1%|
Despite the Protestant majority, Maryland has been prominent in U.S. Catholic tradition, partially because it was intended by George Calvert as a haven for English Catholics. Baltimore was the seat of the first Catholic bishop in the U.S. (1789), and Emmitsburg was the home and burial place of the first American-born citizen to be canonized, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Georgetown University, the first Catholic University, was founded in 1789 in what was then part of Maryland. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Baltimore was the first Roman Catholic cathedral built in the United States.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that Maryland's gross state product in 2006 was US$257 billion. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Maryland households are currently the wealthiest in the country, with a median household income of $68,080 which puts it ahead of New Jersey and Connecticut, which are second and third respectively. Two of Maryland's counties, Howard and Montgomery, are the third and seventh wealthiest counties in the nation respectively. Also, the state's poverty rate of 7.8% is the lowest in the country. Per capita personal income in 2006 was US$43,500, 5th in the nation. Average household income in 2002 was US$53,043, also 5th in the nation.
Maryland's economic activity is strongly concentrated in the tertiary service sector, and this sector, in turn, is strongly influenced by location. One major service activity is transportation, centered around the Port of Baltimore and its related rail and trucking access. The port ranked 10th in the U.S. by tonnage in 2002 (Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, "Waterborn Commerce Statistics"). Although the port handles a wide variety of products, the most typical imports are raw materials and bulk commodities, such as iron ore, petroleum, sugar, and fertilizers, often distributed to the relatively close manufacturing centers of the inland Midwest via good overland transportation. The port also receives several different brands of imported motor vehicles and is the number two auto port in the U.S.
A second service activity takes advantage of the close location of the center of government in Washington, D.C. and emphasizes technical and administrative tasks for the defense/aerospace industry and bio-research laboratories, as well as staffing of satellite government headquarters in the suburban or exurban Baltimore/Washington area. In addition, many educational and medical research institutions are located in the state. In fact, the various components of Johns Hopkins University and its medical research facilities are now the largest single employer in the Baltimore area. Altogether, white collar technical and administrative workers comprise 25% of Maryland's labor force, one of the highest state percentages in the country.
Maryland has a large food-production sector. A large component of this is commercial fishing, centered in Chesapeake Bay, but also including activity off the short Atlantic seacoast. The largest catches by species are the blue crab, oysters, striped bass, and menhaden. The Bay also has uncounted millions of overwintering waterfowl in its many wildlife refuges. While not, strictly speaking, a commercial food resource, the waterfowl support a tourism sector of sportsmen.
Maryland has large areas of fertile agricultural land in its coastal and Piedmont zones, although this land use is being encroached upon by urbanization. Agriculture is oriented to dairying (especially in foothill and piedmont areas) for nearby large city milksheads plus specialty perishable horticulture crops, such as cucumbers, watermelons, sweet corn, tomatoes, muskmelons, squash, and peas (Source:USDA Crop Profiles). In addition, the southern counties of the western shoreline of Chesapeake Bay are warm enough to support a tobacco cash crop zone, which has existed since early Colonial times but declined greatly after a state government buyout in the 1990s. There is also a large automated chicken-farming sector in the state's southeastern part; Salisbury is home to Perdue Farms. Maryland's food-processing plants are the most significant type of manufacturing by value in the state.
Manufacturing, while large in dollar value, is highly diversified with no sub-sector contributing over 20% of the total. Typical forms of manufacturing include electronics, computer equipment, and chemicals. The once mighty primary metals sub-sector, which at one time included what was then the largest steel factory in the world at Sparrows Point, still exists, but is pressed with foreign competition, bankruptcies, and company mergers. During World War II the Glenn L. Martin Company (now part of Lockheed Martin) airplane factory near Essex, MD employed some 40,000 people.
Mining other than construction materials is virtually limited to coal, which is located in the mountainous western part of the state. The brownstone quarries in the east, which gave Baltimore and Washington much of their characteristic architecture in the mid-1800s, were once a predominant natural resource. Historically, there used to be small gold-mining operations in Maryland, some surprisingly near Washington, but these no longer exist.
Maryland imposes 5 income tax brackets, ranging from 2% to 6.25% of personal income. The city of Baltimore and Maryland's 23 counties levy local "piggyback" income taxes at rates between 1.25% and 3.2% of Maryland taxable income. Local officials set the rates and the revenue is returned to the local governments quarterly. The top income tax bracket of 9.45% is the 5th highest combined state and local income tax rates in the country, behind only New York City's 11.35%, California’s 10.3%, Rhode Island’s 9.9%, and Vermont’s 9.5%. Maryland's state sales tax is 6%. All real property in Maryland is subject to the property tax. Generally, properties that are owned and used by religious, charitable, or educational organizations or property owned by the federal, state or local governments are exempt. Property tax rates vary widely. No restrictions or limitations on property taxes are imposed by the state, meaning cities and counties can set tax rates at the level they deem necessary to fund governmental services. These rates can increase, decrease or remain the same from year to year. If the proposed tax rate increases the total property tax revenues, the governing body must advertise that fact and hold a public hearing on the new tax rate. This is called the Constant Yield Tax Rate process.
Baltimore City is the eighth largest port in the nation, and was at the center of the February 2006 controversy over the Dubai Ports World deal because it was considered to be of such strategic importance. The state as a whole is heavily industrialized, with a booming economy and influential technology centers. Its computer industries are some of the most sophisticated in the United States, and the federal government has invested heavily in the area. Maryland is home to several large military bases and scores of high level government jobs.
Maryland's Interstate highways include I-95, which enters the northeast portion of the state, goes through Baltimore, and becomes part of the eastern section of the Capital Beltway to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. I-68 connects the western portions of the state to I-70 at the small town of Hancock. I-70 continues east to Baltimore, connecting Hagerstown and Frederick along the way. I-83 connects Baltimore to southern central Pennsylvania (Harrisburg and York, Pennsylvania). Maryland also has a portion of I-81 that runs through the state near Hagerstown. I-97, fully contained within Anne Arundel County and the shortest one- or two-digit Interstate highway outside of Hawaii, connects the Baltimore area to the Annapolis area.
There are also several auxiliary Interstate highways in Maryland. Among them are two beltways encircling the major cities of the region: I-695, the McKeldin (Baltimore) Beltway, which encircles Baltimore; a portion of I-495, and the Capital Beltway, which encircles Washington, D.C. I-270, which connects the Frederick area with Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia through major suburbs to the northwest of Washington, is a major commuter route and is as wide as fourteen lanes at points. Both I-270 and the Capital Beltway are currently extremely congested; however, the ICC or Intercounty Connector, which began construction in November 2007, is hoped to alleviate some of the congestion over time. Construction of the ICC was a major part of the campaign platform of former Governor Robert Ehrlich, who was in office from 2003 until 2007, and of Governor Martin O'Malley, who succeeded him.
Maryland also has a state highway system that contains routes numbered from 2 through 999, however most of the higher-numbered routes are either not signed or are relatively short. Major state highways include Routes 2 (Governor Ritchie Highway/Solomons Island Road), 4, 5, 32, 45 (York Road), 97 (Georgia Avenue), 100 (Paul T. Pitcher Memorial Highway), 210 (Indian Head Highway), 295 (Baltimore-Washington Parkway), 355, and 404.
Power in Maryland is divided among three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. The Maryland General Assembly is composed of the Maryland House of Delegates and the Maryland Senate. Maryland's governor is unique in the United States as the office is vested with significant authority in budgeting. The legislature may not increase the governor's proposed budget expenditures. Unlike most other states, significant autonomy is granted to many of Maryland's counties.
Most of the business of government is conducted in Annapolis, the state capital. Virtually all state and county elections are held in even-numbered years not divisible by four, in which the President of the United States is not elected - this, as in other states, is intended to divide state and federal politics.
The judicial branch of state government consists of one united District Court of Maryland that sits in every county and Baltimore City, as well as 24 Circuit Courts sitting in each County and Baltimore City, the latter being courts of general jurisdiction for all civil disputes over $30,000.00, all equitable jurisdiction and major criminal proceedings. The intermediate appellate court is known as the "Court of Special Appeals" and the state supreme court is the "Court of Appeals". The appearance of the judges of the Maryland Court of Appeals is unique in that Maryland is the only state whose judges wear red robes.
Maryland has supported the Democratic nominee in the last four presidential elections, and by an average of 15.4%. In 1980, it was one of just six states to vote for Jimmy Carter. Maryland is often among the Democratic nominees' best states. In 1992, Bill Clinton fared better in Maryland than any other state except his home state of Arkansas. In 1996, Maryland was Clinton's 6th best, in 2000 Maryland ranked 4th for Gore and in 2004 John Kerry showed his 5th best performance in Maryland.
Both Maryland Senators and six of its eight Representatives in Congress are Democrats, and Democrats hold super-majorities in the state Senate and House of Delegates. The previous Governor, Robert Ehrlich, was the first Republican to be elected to that office in four decades, and after one term lost his seat to Baltimore Mayor Martin J. O'Malley, a Democrat.
U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer (MD-5), a Democrat, is the Majority Leader for the 110th Congress of the House of Representatives. His district covers parts of Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties, in addition to all of Charles, Calvert and St. Mary's counties in southern Maryland.
John Kerry easily won the state's 10 electoral votes in 2004 by a margin of 13 percentage points with 55.9% of the vote. However, presidential election years are not deeply contested as national party resources are spent mostly in swing states.
The 2006 election cycle witnessed no significant change in this pattern of Democratic dominance, even though there were two major highly-contested races. After Democratic Senator Paul Sarbanes announced that he was retiring, Democratic Congressman Benjamin Cardin defeated Republican Lieutenant Governor Michael S. Steele, with 55% of the vote, against Steele's 44%. The governorship was also a point of interest, as Republican incumbent Robert Ehrlich was defeated by Democratic challenger Martin O'Malley, the Mayor of Baltimore, 53% to 46%. Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, another leading candidate for the Democratic slot, pulled out of the highly anticipated primary, announcing his withdrawal on June 22, 2006, citing clinical depression.
While Maryland is a Democratic party stronghold, perhaps its best known political figure is a Republican - former Governor Spiro Agnew, who served as United States Vice President under Richard Nixon. He was Vice President from 1969 to 1973, when he resigned in the aftermath of revelations that he had taken bribes while he was Governor of Maryland. In late 1973, a court found Agnew guilty of violating tax laws.
The late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was raised in Baltimore, and during his time on the bench represented the liberal wing of the court that allowed abortion on a federal level, and uphold laws eliminating racial discrimination in the public and private spheres.
Public primary and secondary education in Maryland is overseen by the Maryland State Department of Education. The highest educational official in the state is the State Superintendent of Schools, currently Dr. Nancy Grasmick, who is appointed by the State Board of Education to a four-year term of office. The Maryland General Assembly has given the Superintendent and State Board autonomy to make educationally-related decisions, limiting its own influence on the day to day functions of public education. Each county and county-equivalent in Maryland has a local Board of Education charged with running the public schools in that particular jurisdiction.
Maryland has a broad range of private primary and secondary schools. Many of these are affiliated with various religious sects, including parochial schools of the Catholic Church, Quaker schools, Seventh-day Adventist schools, and Jewish schools. In 2003, Maryland law was changed to allow for the creation of publicly funded charter schools, although the charter schools must be approved by their local Board of Education and are not exempt from state laws on education, including collective bargaining laws.
On January 21, 2008, Philippine Consul Rico Fos announced that Baltimore, Maryland will employ an additional 178 new Filipino public school teachers this school year, bringing to a total of 1,000, the number of Filipino teachers in the metropolitan Washington (which includes parts of Maryland and Virginia). Maryland has a yearly shortage of 6,000 teachers.
The first and largest public university in the state is the University of Maryland, College Park, which was founded as the Maryland Agricultural College in 1856 and became a public land grant college in 1864. Towson University, founded in 1866, is the state's second largest university. Baltimore is home to the Maryland Institute College of Art. The majority of public universities in the state are affiliated with the University System of Maryland. Two state-funded institutions, Morgan State University and St. Mary's College of Maryland, as well as two federally funded institutions, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and the United States Naval Academy are not affiliated with the University System of Maryland.
With two major metropolitan areas, Maryland has a number of major and minor professional sports franchises. Two National Football League teams play in Maryland, the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore and the Washington Redskins in Prince George's County. The Baltimore Orioles are the state's Major League Baseball franchise, with the Washington Nationals, located nearby in Washington D.C. The National Hockey League's Washington Capitals and the National Basketball Association's Washington Wizards formerly played in Maryland, until the construction of a Washington arena in 1997 (originally known as MCI Center, renamed Verizon Center in 2006). Maryland enjoys considerable historical repute for the talented sports players of its past, including: Cal Ripken Jr. and Babe Ruth.
Other professional sports franchises in the state include five affiliated minor league baseball teams, one independent league baseball team, an indoor soccer team, two indoor football teams, and three low-level outdoor soccer teams.
The official state sport of Maryland, since 1962, is jousting; the official team sport since 2004 is lacrosse. In 2008, intending to promote physical fitness for all ages, walking became the official state exercise. Maryland is the first state with an official state exercise. Maryland is home to Olympic swimming medalists Michael Phelps and Katie Hoff.