Hogan Says He Prospered as the Un-Trump

    Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. and Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford at a post-election news conference in the State House. Photo by Josh Kurtz

    Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) on Wednesday said voters rewarded him on Election Day for his bipartisan, problem-solving approach to governing, and he vowed to conduct his second term in much the same way.

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Hogan said at a State House news conference after winning reelection by a record-shattering 14 points. “It seems to be working. And people seem to like what we’re doing.”

    Hogan, just the second Republican governor in Maryland history to earn a second term, said he was eager to get back to work following months on the campaign trail. But he noted that he was able to withstand a national Democratic wave and defeat former NAACP president Benjamin T. Jealous (D) in a blue state because he had sufficiently distanced himself from President Trump, philosophically and tonally.

    “I’m opposed to scare tactics and I’ve not been shy about criticizing some of the divisive rhetoric we’ve been hearing,” Hogan said.

    The governor lamented that several key GOP candidates lost in Maryland this year. Two Republican county executives, Allan Kittleman in Howard and Steven R. Schuh in Anne Arundel, were ousted, Republicans lost six seats in the House of Delegates, and the GOP fell way short of its goal of flipping five Democratic seats in the state Senate.

    Hogan observed that he had long coattails in 2014, but said they were offset this year by Trump’s unpopularity in the state.

    “It was a tough night,” the governor said. “President Trump said the election should be about him and that’s what seemed to happen. … The voters were mad and they wanted to take it out on the president.”

    He continued: “There’s no question that the Republican Party needs to take a close look at itself, not just in Maryland but nationally. I think I will be a big part of the discussion.”

    But Hogan dismissed, for now, suggestions that he might be a future candidate for national office, asserting, “At this point, I haven’t given any thought about it whatsoever.”

    Shortly after Hogan spoke, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), offered his assessment of Tuesday’s elections. Asked whether Hogan’s big victory amounted to a mandate, Miller replied, “I think he can have a mandate for his personality. He’s very personable. He’s got a great story. He beat cancer.”

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    Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. meets the press in the Senate lounge Wednesday. Photo by Josh Kurtz

    Miller said that Hogan’s success stems in part from his willingness to appropriate Democratic policy initiatives.

    “The governor realizes that they poll well,” he said.

    But Miller echoed a line that Hogan frequently uses about Maryland being a place of “middle temperament,” and suggested that Jealous lost in part because his policy proposals were too ambitious and impractical.

    “His message might have played better in California than it did in Maryland,” he said.

    Miller said he was surprised that Hogan did not do more for the GOP’s “Drive for Five” state Senate seats – which appears to have resulted in just one Republican pickup.

    “As a school teacher, if you grade him from zero to 100, he got a 20,” Miller said of Hogan’s efforts. “He gets a D.”

    Miller said he was pleased that most Democratic candidates in competitive Senate races were able to prevail despite Hogan’s popularity in their districts. And he said House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) is “overjoyed – he’s absolutely thrilled” by Tuesday’s election results.

    “A good night for us,” Busch agreed in a brief interview Wednesday.

    Miller, who has 32 years as Senate president under his belt, said that he and Busch are determined to continue working closely together and to work with Hogan, and he believes Hogan won’t change his approach much in a second term.

    “He’s going to be a lame duck,” Miller said. “The speaker and I have some age on us. We’re determined to continue reaching across the aisle.”

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.

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