Like a lot of Republicans, Gov. Larry Hogan expressed skepticism about the FBI’s search this summer of President Trump’s home for missing classified documents, and pointedly said the Biden Justice Department needed to explain its actions.
But Hogan also cautioned Republicans who adopted harsh anti-law enforcement rhetoric in the wake of the FBI’s Mar-A-Lago records search. He told the website Axios last month that as part of a “tough on crime” campaign he wanted to push during the midterm elections, he would stump for GOP candidates who supported law enforcement agencies.
“At a time of rising crime, Republicans must be the party of law and order and supporting law enforcement,” Hogan said. “It’s absurd and dangerous that some Republicans would betray those principles and adopt the failed rhetoric of the far-left.”
On Friday, Hogan is scheduled to appear at a fundraiser for a Republican state Senate candidate in New Hampshire who recently compared FBI agents to “storm troopers.”
As part of a New England political swing this week, Hogan is headlining a breakfast fundraiser for Rich Girard, a former alderman and ex-school board member in Manchester, N.H., who is challenging a veteran Democratic state senator in a Democratic-leaning district.
In a statement announcing Hogan’s appearance at his fundraiser, at Murphy’s Diner in Manchester, which is owned by a Republican candidate for another state Senate seat, Girard suggested that Republicans have something to learn from Hogan’s success in blue Maryland.
“Governor Hogan was elected and reelected in one of the most heavily Democratic states in our country,” Girard said. “I honestly don’t know much about him but am very interested to learn how he convinced a very blue electorate and legislature to adopt a Republican agenda. As NH Republicans battle to remain in the majority and continue to move our state in a positive direction, I’m eager to hear what Governor Hogan has to say. He rescued a very blue state and that story, no doubt, has lessons that will help prevent us from the pitfalls of becoming one. I am grateful that he’s agreed to do this event in support of my campaign.”
But just as Girard professes to not know much about Hogan, it’s possible that Hogan doesn’t know a lot about Girard.
Girard is a radio talk show host with a pugnacious personality. The “issues” page of his campaign website suggests he’s a garden variety conservative Republican and notably to the right of Hogan’s public persona, concerned about crime, parental rights in education, inflation and taxes. He opposes abortion, wants to protect Second Amendment rights, and spotlights issues like “critical race theory” and “election integrity.” He also rails against COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates — measures Hogan promoted during the height of the pandemic.
Just as significant, Girard during a public appearance in August asserted that the FBI has been “turned into a political weapon.” He wasn’t just referring to the FBI search at Mar-A-Lago — he harkened back to the federal investigation of President Trump’s ties to Russia, which he called “a hoax,” and to possible probes of Hunter Biden, President Biden’s son.
“There’s a whole lot of evidence out there to prove that [FBI officials] knew it while they were doing it and they kept perpetrating it trying to disrupt the presidency of Donald Trump, who was duly elected to the presidency by the people of the United States,” Girard said on the broadcast. “They did not like him, they did not want him, they wanted to continue on the path which was decidedly what President Trump did not want to do, and here we are. So they not only do that, they scuttle the Hunter Biden thing. And they not only do that, they now are raiding — and it’s the same organization, right, that sent storm troopers to arrest, and I’ll call them storm troopers, when they went after Paul Manafort, when they went after Roger Stone, when they went after various other Trump officials.”
Girard concluded by calling the FBI search of Mar-A-Lago “a very dangerous thing to have happen.”
David Weinman, the executive director of An America United, Hogan’s national political action committee, declined to comment Thursday about Girard’s rhetoric.
Girard is challenging 83-year-old state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro (D), who was first elected to his seat in 1998. New Hampshire Democrats are clearly trying to paint Girard as outside the political mainstream.
When New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who like Hogan has tried to craft an image as a common-sense conservative, recently endorsed Girard, Democrats pounced.
“Rich Girard is exactly the kind of anti-choice extremist that Sununu has cowed to for his entire career,” New Hampshire Democratic Chair Raymond Buckley told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “This is the same Rich Girard who claimed that Planned Parenthood was the ‘single largest exterminator of black lives on the planet’ and suggested that made them ‘worse than Nazis.’”
“The fact that Sununu will associate with someone like this and still pretend to be a ‘moderate’ is laughable,” Buckley added.
In the same article, Girard countered that D’Allesandro is outside the political mainstream when it comes to his views on abortion.
“The only extremists on the abortion issue are the Democrats, including Lou D’Allesandro, who’ve voted for unrestricted, taxpayer funded abortion up until the moment of birth, a position so unpopular it’s rejected by more than 90% of Granite Staters, who also overwhelmingly support the current law that only restricts abortion after the sixth month,” he said. “Add to that the Biden caused inflation and recession and it’s no wonder why the Democrats are slinging mud to try and change the topic away from their painfully evident failures.”
Other Hogan appearances
Hogan’s swing through New England this week has otherwise been more salutary. On Wednesday evening, he appeared at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where he talked to a group of students about the merits of bipartisanship.
Former Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R), a Kennedy School fellow, heaped praise on Hogan.
“You have done a magnificent job,” he said, adding that when it comes to bridging the partisan divide, “I don’t know anybody who has done this better than you have, Governor.”
Hogan talked about governing through the worst of the pandemic and boasted, “Numerous media outlets and medical organizations said we had the best response in the nation.” And he also recalled navigating the disparate opinions of his fellow chief executives during his tenure as chair of the National Governors Association when COVID-19 first hit, dealing with “disinformation and misinformation and rhetoric coming from all over the place.”
Hogan attributed his high approval ratings in Maryland to not caring about the political consequences of his actions. Asked whether partisanship is going to worsen in the years ahead, Hogan paused and eventually replied, “I can’t swear to you it’s going to be fixed.” But he vowed to continue to work to change the political tone.
On Thursday morning, Hogan spoke at “Politics & Eggs,” a must-attend breakfast at St. Anselm College for aspiring national leaders. According to coverage of the event from The Baltimore Banner, he mostly stuck to his theme of bipartisanship.
“Americans are not tired of freedom and democracy,” Hogan said. “They’re tired of failed leadership. And they’re fed up with politicians who put their own self interest before America.”
Hogan repeated his recent criticism of President Biden, suggesting Biden has become captive “to the far left extremes of his party.” But he also had new criticism for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential rival for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. Hogan called DeSantis’ decision to fly migrants from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard a “publicity stunt.”
“I think it was a terrible idea,” he said. “Let’s just try to address the issue seriously and fix the problem, rather than trying to get on TV.”
Hogan previously spoke at the breakfast in the spring of 2019, when he was contemplating challenging Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2020.
Hogan is clearly paying attention to New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state. Earlier this year he appeared at fundraisers for the New Hampshire House Republican Conference and for the state GOP.