Gov. Martin O'Malley has won a second term in Annapolis, handing Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. a second consecutive statewide defeat.
"We're going to have a lot of tough days still ahead of us," O'Malley, 47, told cheering supporters at a Baltimore museum. "But we are coming back."
He added: "Tonight we chose a better future for the children of Maryland."
A few minutes later, around 11 p.m., Ehrlich congratulated O'Malley at a gathering of his supporters at the state fairgrounds in Timonium, prompting a brief chorus of boos. "I'm really disappointed, obviously," Ehrlich said, "but this is politics, this is Maryland."
With 93 percent of precincts reporting, O'Malley had 54 percent of the vote to Ehrlich's 44 percent.
In Anne Arundel County, voters approved the Question A referendum that clears the way for a slots emporium at Arundel Mills mall. With all votes counted, the measure passed, 56 percent to 44 percent.
The outcome means the Cordish Cos. can build a $1 billion slots and entertainment complex at Arundel Mills. It is a huge victory for David Cordish, who holds a state license to build the 4,750-machine casino, and a bruising defeat for the Maryland Jockey Club, which financed the anti-slots effort in hopes of steering slots to Laurel Park Race Course.
In another closely watched race, Republican state Sen. Andy Harris defeated Rep. Frank Kratovil in the 1st District, dispatching the freshman Democrat in a hard-fought rematch.
Overall, though, O'Malley's victory indicates that voters in Maryland, with twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans, bucked a nationwide trend of hostility toward incumbent Democrats.
U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Democrat, and six Democratic members of the House won re-election. Winners included Elijah E. Cummings, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Donna Edwards, Chris Van Hollen and Steny Hoyer, the House Majority Leader.
The state's lone Republican congressman, Roscoe Bartlett, also won another two-year term.
In Baltimore County, four-term Democratic Councilman Kevin Kamenetz of Owings Mills defeated Kenneth C. Holt, a Republican from Kingsville, the Associated Press is reporting.
Kamenetz enjoyed wider name recognition, a significant fund-raising advantage and the fact that the Democratic Party holds a more than two-to-one advantage in voter registration.
Two area incumbent county executives won re-election: Republican John Leopold of Anne Arundel County and Democrat Ken Ulman of Howard County.
In the 1st District race, Harris had 54 percent of the vote to Kratovil's 42 percent, with 97 percent of precincts reporting.
The race attracted national attention and record spending of at least $8 million that flooded local airwaves with negative campaign ads. The historically Republican district covers the Eastern Shore and parts of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties.
Harris, addressing backers on Kent Island, said: "The results tonight show us that the American dream is still alive in America." The crowd responded with chants of "USA! USA! USA!"
"Make no mistake about it — we've got a tough job in front of this country," Harris said, listing the need to create jobs, cut taxes and control spending.
Less than a mile away, about 100 Kratovil supporters cheered and whooped as the Democrat took the stage at the Crab Deck in Grasonville. "It appears that this time I was the one making the call" to concede, he said.
Kratovil hailed the American electoral process for enabling peaceful transitions of power. He also talked about his approach for seeking moderate positions in Congress and worried about the "pendulum swings" of power due to polarizing political views.
"To move forward as a nation, what we need are independent-minded, critical-thinking, and substance-minded people" in government, he said.
Democrats won in two other statewide races. State Comptroller Peter Franchot easily defeated Republican William Campbell to win a second term. Attorney General Douglas Gansler ran unopposed.
Ehrlich, 52, has said he probably wouldn't run for another office if he lost this race to O'Malley.
Riding an anti-Republican wave four years ago, O'Malley swept Ehrlich out of office by a 6.5 percent margin. Since leaving in January 2007, the former governor has managed a Baltimore law office and hosted a talk radio show with his wife, Kendel Ehrlich.
Republican wins in Virginia and New Jersey last fall, and Massachusetts in January, coupled with negative reverberations about President Barack Obama and the national health care debate, stoked Ehrlich's interest in a return bid.
Kendel Ehrlich nudged her husband into the race, the former governor has said, and Tuesday, she said she had "no regrets" about it. "He ran the campaign that he wanted to run," she said. "This was the year to do it."
Said Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell: "We always knew this would be a high-wire act in Maryland."