Opinion: Del. West Responds to Recent Op-Ed on ‘Team Hogan’

What is Team Hogan?

That’s the question which Peta Richkus poses in her submission to Maryland Matters that was published on Wednesday. In Ms. Richkus’s considered view, Team Hogan is merely a sham, a false façade erected by Republican candidates to obfuscate the fact that they are detestable right-wingers.

In her analysis, Ms. Richkus ignores the obvious fact that Gov. Larry Hogan has created a new brand of moderate and reformist Republicanism, which is so appealing to Maryland voters that recent polls not only give him a 20-point lead in the upcoming election but suggest that he is on track to winning the votes of a very high percentage of Maryland Democrats.

In my experience, the voters generally vote for candidates who present a friendly face, not candidates who scowl at them and spew aggressive partisan rhetoric.

In this year’s gubernatorial race, it is Ben Jealous who scowls at the camera and promises to engage in gerrymandering on steroids if he is elected in order to eliminate all Maryland Republican congressional seats. By contrast, Larry Hogan is relaxed, affable, a governor for all who constantly emphasizes his bipartisan reach across the aisle to enact moderate legislation that will unite us rather than divide us along party lines.

No wonder Larry Hogan’s campaign is resonating with voters across the state. Gov. Hogan’s consistent bipartisan approach has put him in a very strong position in Maryland, in contrast to Republicans in other parts of the country, who are fighting for their lives in hotly contested races. On Election Night, Maryland is likely to stand out as a blue state in which a Republican governor wins a convincing victory while in many red states, Republican candidates go down to defeat. Don’t be surprised if the national press then focuses on the unique Team Hogan brand of Republicanism here in Maryland and speculates whether it could be replicated in other states.

In the latter part of her article, Ms. Richkus turns her focus on me and suggests that, like Gov. Hogan, I am some sort of political charlatan. She thinks it sinister that over the years, I have modified my website to refresh its discussion of contemporary issues. She points with alarm to the fact that in 2017, I attended a convention of one of the two major national organizations representing state legislators, a rather conservative organization, but conveniently ignores the fact that in 2016, I attended the convention of the other such national association, a much more liberal, Democratic organization.

She finds it odd that I am proud to associate myself with Gov. Hogan as a member of his team. But it is not unusual for candidates of a political party to align themselves with the party’s standard bearer.  What is very unusual is what is happening this year in Baltimore County, where Democratic candidates are engaged in a scramble to separate themselves from any possible link to Ben Jealous.

Most significantly, Ms. Richkus attacks my four-year record of bipartisanship. By any objective measure, I am far and away the most bipartisan member of the entire General Assembly. Just take a look at my voting record, which is available online. I have a strong pro-business voting record but have nearly as high a pro-environment voting record, the highest such record of any Republican in the General Assembly. While I support the Second Amendment, I voted for all three bills this year to restrict the possession of firearms in certain egregious cases.

My bipartisan and constructive approach to legislating has not gone unrecognized by the House Democratic leadership.

In 2015, only five weeks after I was sworn in as a brand new delegate, the Democratic leadership of my Health and Government Operations Committee invited me into their “back room,” where key decisions are made as to whether bills are “ready for prime time” and should be brought to the floor for passage.

n 2016, Speaker Busch appointed me to the critical Justice Reinvestment Act task force, and the legislation that we drafted and ultimately enacted to totally re-invent the State’s criminal justice system for non-violent offenders was a great demonstration of bipartisanship in action. In fact, I was on the conference committee for this bill and proposed the final compromises that sent the bill to the floor for passage.

In 2017, I was appointed to the Procurement Reform task force, and the bipartisan legislation that we developed to open up bidding on state contracts will save state taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

In 2018, Speaker Busch appointed me as the only Republican legislator to be a member of the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission. Our group worked all last summer and fall and through the General Assembly session and produced what Gov. Hogan described as the most important legislative accomplishment of the 2018 session. It has saved the Affordable Care Act in Maryland, protected the health insurance of nearly 200,000 Marylanders and engendered falling health insurance premiums after years of steadily rising premiums.

The fact is that I wear my bipartisanship on my sleeve. It is not a disguise. I believe that the rancorous partisanship in Washington, D.C., is destroying our democratic system of government, and on a daily basis, I do everything I can to ensure that our state government in Annapolis does not become Washington, D.C., on the Chesapeake.

If I should win my election to the state Senate, I intend to continue to pursue this course.

— Christopher R. West

The writer, a member of the House of Delegates, is the Republican nominee for state Senate in District 42 in Baltimore County.

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