Seeking to end persistent rumors that he will attempt to unseat Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D), Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) declared firmly on Tuesday that he will not run for the U.S. Senate this year.
Hogan’s statement followed months of wooing by national party leaders. They saw Hogan as the only Maryland Republican capable of running a competitive race against the state’s first-term junior senator. At a minimum, a Hogan campaign would have forced Democrats to spend resources defending a seat normally regarded as safe.
Speaking to reporters at a State House news conference, the governor said he intended to spend his last 12 months in office focused squarely on running state government, without the distractions of a campaign.
“When I pledged to the people of Maryland that I was going to give this job as governor everything I’ve got, every single day that I have been given, I meant it.” he said. “That commitment is far more important to me than any political campaign.”
Hogan said he spoke with several senators — including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott (R-Fla.), 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) — on Tuesday morning. He also phoned Van Hollen.
“I believe we would have won the race,” Hogan told reporters. “But just because you can win a race doesn’t mean that’s the job you should do if your heart’s not in it. And I just didn’t see myself being a U.S. Senator.”
Hogan said the pressure campaign came not just from national Republicans but from Maryland-based supporters, donors and family members. In the end, he said, he just didn’t see himself being happy serving in the Senate — being “one of 100,” he often said.
“I was very honest and direct with everyone throughout the entire process,” Hogan added.
Although he is widely believed to be the only Maryland Republican capable of running a competitive race for the Senate, Democrats are confident that Van Hollen would have prevailed. He had nearly $5 million in his campaign account as of Dec. 31 and has never lost an election, dating back to his 1990 run for the House of Delegates as a little-known attorney from Kensington.
“As we have said time and again, Senator Van Hollen is ready to go up against whoever Mitch McConnell recruits,” said campaign spokesman Keith Presley in a statement. “And he will continue to fight every day to protect our democracy and defend the values Marylanders believe in.”
Hogan noted that Maryland hasn’t elected a Republican to the Senate since Charles “Mac” Mathias was re-elected to a third term in 1980.
Even as he closed the door on a Senate run this cycle, the governor acknowledged that “it would be difficult for just about anyone else” from his party to challenge Van Hollen successfully.
For now, the leading Republican candidate appears to be James Tarantin, a 36-year-old immigrant from Israel who owns a merchandising company. Tarantin reported $90,568 in his campaign account as of Dec. 31.
Intentionally or not, Hogan has stoked speculation that he intends to seek higher office this year or in a future election. In 2020, he served as head of the National Governors Association, a post that often attracts ambitious politicians. He wrote a book about his experiences as governor and his cancer battle. And he has been a frequent presence on national talk shows, where he has frequently criticized President Trump’s conduct and statements.
He has said the Republican Party must be a “big tent” if it is to win national elections — and he said he intends to “keep speaking out.”
“(My decision) does not mean that I plan to sit on the sidelines when it comes to the serious challenges facing our country and our democracy,” he said. “I’m going to continue to call it like I see it. And I’ll keep speaking out about the divisiveness and dysfunction in Washington and about fixing the broken politics.”
Asked about a potential White House run in 2024, Hogan said he is “not going to do a lot of thinking about that. I’m just going to continue to do what I’ve been doing.”
A Trump candidacy would not deter him from running, he added. “I wouldn’t care whether the former president runs or not,” he said pointedly.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include a statement from Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s campaign.