Josh Kurtz: Jeb Bush + Ike Leggett = ???

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R). Twitter photo

I’ll take unlikeliest political pairings for $800, Alex.

The answer is: This political scion and former Republican governor of Florida and this former Democratic county executive of Montgomery County, Md., who had 11 brothers and sisters, will be the most high-profile speakers at the second inauguration of Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) on Wednesday.

Thought bubble: Uhhhhh…Uhhhhh…Was “Walkin’” Lawton Chiles a Republican? Uhhhh…

Beep beep!

I’m sorry! The correct response was, Who are Jeb Bush and Ike Leggett?

Ike Leggett and Jeb Bush. Ike Leggett and Jeb Bush. Jeb Bush and Ike Leggett, together on the same stage. Jeb Bush and Ike Leggett? Roll that off your tongue a few times. Wrap your mind around the visual, too.

Leggett will offer “a welcome message,” a news release from Hogan’s office advises. Bush will introduce the governor.

Hogan and his team have unparalleled political antennae and an exquisite sense of symbolism, so the Bush and Leggett pairing announced Monday, while stunning in one way, also makes perfect sense.

In Bush, you have, like Hogan, an embodiment of an anti-Trump Republican – only with a higher profile. Leggett, until a month ago the chief executive of Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction, symbolizes Hogan’s nod to progress and bipartisanship.

Maybe the Trumpsters – who, after all, are the mainstays of the national GOP – won’t approve, but that’s not really Hogan’s game, is it? They’ll have to swallow Hogan’s apostasies yet again, because, in Democratic Maryland, what choice do they have?

In a news release Monday announcing the roster of Inauguration Day speakers, the Hogan office’s description of Bush, intentionally or not, seemed to draw parallels between the two leaders, casting them both as reformers who defied their state’s normal political trends.

“As the 43rd governor of the State of Florida, serving from 1999 through 2007, Mr. Bush was the third Republican elected to the state’s highest office and the first Republican in the state’s history to be reelected,” the news release said. “During his two terms, Governor Bush championed major reform of government, in areas ranging from health care and environmental protection to civil service and tax reform, and he is recognized as a national leader in education reform. He was most recently a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.”

In the past, Hogan has also sought to highlight personal ties between his family and the Bushes. Hogan’s father, former congressman Lawrence J. Hogan Sr. (R), overlapped for one term in the House of Representatives with Jeb Bush’s dad, the late President George H.W. Bush. Hogan also spent some of his teen years in Florida, and is a graduate of Florida State, so there’s a Sunshine State connection, too.

Hogan was a visible presence at the elder Bush’s funeral in Washington, D.C., last month. Jeb Bush campaigned for Hogan back in 2014.

But here’s a little-known curiosity: Jeb Bush also has a pretty good relationship with Hogan’s predecessor, Martin J. O’Malley (D), a man our current governor would just as soon forget, except when he can remind people that O’Malley was responsible for “43 consecutive tax increases.” They’ve got a good relationship even though O’Malley, during his own ill-fated bid for the White House, once took a swipe at Bush, suggesting the presidency wasn’t a “crown” to be passed between two families (the Bushes and Clintons).

Since abandoning their presidential bids in early 2016, Bush and O’Malley have served together on the Board of Directors of Rivada Networks, a wireless company — appointed the same day. In that role they have made public appearances together, discussing policy and politics. And Bush and O’Malley also appeared together in a jokey Facebook video two years ago discussing their looming competition against graduate students in a horseshoe tournament at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

“Well, I’m honored to be at the Bush School and I’m being schooled by none other than Jeb Bush on how to throw a horseshoe,” O’Malley says.

“I’m like fifth in the family ranking system, which my dad set up,” Bush adds. “He was probably No. 1.”

If ever a Bush wing of the national GOP is to rise, phoenix-like, from whatever rubble the Trump Republican Party leaves behind, Hogan would surely like to be a part of it. So Jeb’s appearance helps Hogan in myriad ways.

Former Montgomery Executive Isiah Leggett (D).

As for Leggett, he and Hogan clearly established a rapport and a solid working relationship over the past four years. Leggett’s tepid endorsement of Hogan’s Democratic challenger, Benjamin T. Jealous, was one of the most awkward dances in recent Maryland political history.

Free from the burdens of public office, Leggett can now dance with whomever he chooses. So he and Hogan have moved to a new phase of their relationship.

“Mr. Leggett was the first African-American to be elected to the county council of Montgomery County and the first African-American county executive for Montgomery County, serving for nearly three decades in these positions,” the Hogan news release relates.

Left unsaid – but surely an additional selling point to the Hogan camp – is the fact that Leggett is a former chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party. He was the man Maryland Democratic leaders called upon to rescue them back in 2002, when Hogan’s ex-boss, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), was elected governor.

Mission accomplished?

The inauguration of Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. and Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford will take place on Wednesday, beginning at 12:30 p.m. on the northwest lawn of the State House. The pledge of allegiance will be led by Hogan’s 6-year-old granddaughter, Daniella Velez. The Invocation will be given by The Most Reverend William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore. The Benediction will be given by Dr. Alvin C. Hathaway Sr., Pastor at Union Baptist Church in Baltimore.

Rutherford will be introduced by his daughters, Kristen Rutherford and Lauren Rutherford. Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera will swear in Hogan and Rutherford. Thomas Riford, a longtime radio host at Western Maryland’s WJEJ and executive director of the Thomas Kennedy Center in Hagerstown, will serve as master of ceremonies.

Maryland Public Television will broadcast the event, beginning at noon, and will live-stream it at http://www.mpt.org/inauguration/. The telecast will re-air at 7 p.m.

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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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