When he leaves office next January, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will have several professional options available to him.
He can return to his lucrative real estate business, which his brother has been running since he took office in 2015. He can settle into a comfortable semi-retirement. He can go on the political lecture circuit or become a regular cable TV pundit — or some combination of all of them.
Or, Hogan can seek the Republican nomination for president or ponder the possibility of running as an independent.
Hogan has shrugged off all questions about his future plans, saying he intends to “run through the tape” and focus only on being governor until the minute his successor is sworn in.
But what about Hogan’s cabinet members and other high-ranking members of his administration? What’s ahead for them?
The realization that the Maryland political world is about to be upended after eight years of Hogan was on vivid display throughout the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference in Ocean City last week. But one of the starkest reminders came during the annual governor’s cabinet reception, held Friday in a room overlooking picturesque Assawoman Bay.
As state and local officials moved through the crowded room, it was hard not to be struck by the notion that most of the Hogan administration officials on hand won’t be at next year’s reception in any official capacity. And as a result, it’s inevitable that many are considering their future.
“Make no mistake — they are thinking about their next moves,” said John Willis, who served as secretary of state under former Gov. Parris Glendening (D) and is executive in residence at the University of Baltimore School of Public and International Affairs.
A quick survey of Hogan administration officials attending MACo last week suggested that most don’t have set plans — or at least aren’t willing to say so yet. In private conversations, a few said they might be willing to stay on at their agencies, if Democrat Wes Moore is elected to replace Hogan.
“It was fun watching the state agencies react when Wes was coming through [the exhibition hall at the convention center],” said Willis, an informal adviser to the Democratic nominee’s campaign.
Some Hogan officials expressed hope in these private conversations that the new governor would seek some continuity from their administration or would at least entertain the idea of tapping a few members of the opposing party for high-ranking positions, assuming Moore is elected. Willis said he could see some Hogan administration officials returning to local government, which is where many worked before joining the administration. One high-ranking state official said he hoped to join the county government where he lives next year. Still others could try their hand at running for public office in the future, whether or not they’ve held political positions before.
A random sampling of cabinet-level officials last week revealed that David Brinkley, secretary of the Department of Management and Budget, has a fairly firm fix on what he plans to do next. Brinkley, a former state lawmaker who ran an insurance and securities business before joining the Hogan cabinet in 2015, said he will restart the securities side of the business, which he suspended when he joined the cabinet (the insurance side of the business has continued to be operated by others for the past 7 1/2 years).
“I’ll certainly be taking care of my clients, some of whom have probably been wondering where I was for the past eight years,” he joked.
Brinkley said he and his colleagues are leaving state government with an array of accomplishments — he’s particularly pleased with their ability to leave state government on firm financial footing.
“There’s a lot of stuff to be proud of,” he said. “I’m certainly excited. Frankly this governor left this state in far better shape than he found it.”
Brinkley, who spent two decades in the legislature, said he also plans to remain politically and civically active. His wife, Bethamy Beam Brinkley, is a judge on the Maryland State Board of Contract Appeals.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, who worked for both state and federal government and as an attorney before becoming Hogan’s running mate, said he is weighing options but isn’t ready “to say anything yet.” Rutherford declined an opportunity to run for the state’s top job this year and is considered unlikely to seek another political office.
“One thing I’m definitely doing now is figuring out what I don’t want to do — and one of those things is practicing law,” Rutherford said.
Transportation Secretary Jim Ports, another former legislator in Hogan’s cabinet, said he plans to remain in the transportation sector, but doesn’t have a gig lined up yet. He has previously worked as a transportation official in Harford County, and has held a variety of roles at the Maryland Department of Transportation under Hogan and former Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R).
“There are a lot of people talking to me about a lot of things,” Ports said. “They recognize that I’ve been in this industry a long time. I know the subject matter. I get things done — that’s what I’m told.”
Health Secretary Dennis Schrader, a veteran of state, local and federal government, echoed his boss and said he’ll figure out what to do next after leaving office. Schrader’s wife, Sandra Schrader, is a former state legislator who is currently deputy secretary at the Maryland Department of Planning.
“I’m going to run through the tape on Jan. 19,” Dennis Schrader said. “There’s a lot more work to be done.”