During a wide-ranging interview with Maryland Matters last week, Gov. Larry Hogan discussed many of the biggest issues he faced during his two terms as Maryland’s leader.
Hogan’s tenure comes to an end on Jan. 18, when Democrats Wes Moore and Aruna Miller are sworn in as the state’s new governor and lieutenant governor.
In Part I of our conversation, Hogan discussed the three big crises he faced as governor — the uprising in Baltimore, his bout with cancer and the pandemic.
In Part II, below, Hogan talked about actions he took to help quell the Jan. 6 insurrection, the process he will use to decide whether to run for president, his stalled plan to build toll lanes in Montgomery County, and his relationships with Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R) and Mike Miller (D), the late president of the state Senate. (Remarkably, Hogan and Miller met when the future governor was a small child.)
In addition, the governor offered a blunt assessment of Rep. Andy Harris’s description of Jan. 6, which the Republican congressman insists was “a protest gone awry” and not an organized effort to block certification of the 2020 election.
The interview was conducted in Hogan’s State House office by Senior Reporter Bruce DePuyt, who has covered every governor since William Donald Schaefer (D). The following transcript was lightly edited for lengthy and clarity.
Maryland Matters: Boyd Rutherford has had a big portfolio compared to other lieutenant governors. He once told me that people routinely ask him to relay things that they’re afraid to tell you to your face. He’s also asked to deliver funding requests. I thought that was interesting.
Gov. Hogan: That’s funny. It’s interesting that he told you that. I hadn’t heard that.
He did a great job, and we had a great relationship. I think we gave him more real responsibility than most lieutenant governors have had. We were friends before we ran and we served together in the cabinet [of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich (R)] 20 years ago, so we’ve known each other a long time and trust each other.
He’s not as political an animal as me, but he’s a bureaucrat. He likes to run things, and so he was invaluable. He told me exactly what he thought and he would be like a buffer. He would kind of tell me if I was wrong, though my staff was able to do that, too.
MM: You have a remarkable history with Mike Miller. He babysat you when you were a kid and he was a teenager working for your father. If that was a Hollywood script —
Gov. Hogan: We should probably do a book about it or something. I mean, I knew him since I was a little kid. I was six years old and my Dad left me in a car with Mike Miller because he was driving him in a campaign. When I first heard this, at a Senates Past dinner that Bill Clinton attended, I was like what kind of a father would leave you in a car with Mike Miller? And secondly, I thought, things have really come full circle, because now I get to babysit the Maryland General Assembly (laughs).
I had like a love-hate relationship [with Miller in Annapolis], because on the one hand, he would be really very warm and engaging, and then he would be screaming obscenities the next moment. But we had mutual respect. He was a tough adversary when we were on opposite sides, but we always kept the communication lines open and we always had a very trusting relationship and and we got a lot of things done. I miss the guy. He was an icon. There’s never going to be another Mike Miller.
MM: He told me during a TV interview, very early in your tenure, that you were going to serve eight years. Given his passion for electing Democrats, that surprised me.
Gov. Hogan: When did he say that?
MM: Very early on. 2015, I believe.
Gov. Hogan: Wow. I’d never heard that before. Of course he kept saying publicly to most people, ‘We’re going to run Hogan out of town.’ [Laughs.] He would say, ‘You know, he just doesn’t know anything about state government. He just got here. Don’t be too hard on the poor guy, he doesn’t know his way around.’
But we had a good relationship. Sometimes we would triangulate with the House and the Senate and so we sometimes would discuss strategy. But it was funny because he really would say, ‘We’re gonna beat you on this, we’re gonna do that.’ And later he was like, ‘We’re gonna work together. We’ll work it out.’ And then he’d go out and have a press conference and blast me! [Laughs]
MM: Critics say your claims of working across the aisle are overblown. Were there times where you and your staff really rolled up your sleeves to reach a compromise with the General Assembly?
Gov. Hogan: I think the people that say that are partisan legislators who didn’t feel I did what they wanted. Compromise does not mean you roll over and do everything they want. It means finding things that you can agree on.
I’m the only Republican governor in America that got a Democratic legislature to cut taxes — and we did eight years in a row by $4.7 billion. That’s a huge accomplishment in and of itself. But we passed criminal justice reform. We worked with Republicans and Democrats getting that done.
We came up with health care solutions where I was fighting against Republicans, saying we’re going to not kick people off and we’re going to cover hundreds of thousands of people but we’re going to lower insurance premiums for everyone with a reinsurance program that was the only one in America like it. All during the pandemic, on the emergency aid that we wanted, to help businesses survive, we got them to support the small businesses.
So, did we agree on everything? No. Did we sometimes have strong disagreements? Yes. But I can’t think of any other governor who worked with a Democratic legislature to accomplish all these different things. So I hear people say ‘Well, he really wasn’t that bipartisan.’ Well, just look at the record.
MM: The fate of your plan for toll lanes on I-270 and the Capital Beltway is now in the hands of Wes Moore. With the benefit of hindsight, do you wish it had played out differently?
Gov. Hogan: Of course. I wish the whole thing had played out differently. The biggest problem for the Washington metropolitan region is traffic. Our plan had over 70% approval in Montgomery County. And yet legislators and county government people and activist groups have been throwing roadblocks for six years.
We got final federal approval, which wasn’t easy. Unfortunately they took 10 months to do it. Now it’s going to fall into the next administration instead of getting done before we leave. Even when you spell out that it’s ‘managed toll lanes to fix the traffic,’ it’s 70% approval. Some of the public officials are completely out of step with their constituents.
It’s very frustrating that it didn’t get done. We kept compromising and scaling it down. It was not going to do as much [as the original], but still was going to help a lot. And if it doesn’t happen, it will be an unmitigated disaster for the region. Going back and starting over will set the clock back another couple decades.
MM: You told Channel 2 in an interview that your biggest regret might have been not reaching a deal with the General Assembly on tougher sentences for repeat violent offenders. That struck me, because of all the issues I hear Democrats push for, that’s the one where they’re probably most out-of-step with the public, in my opinion.
Gov. Hogan: There is no question about that. And we passed it through the Senate twice, by the way. We couldn’t get the mayors in Baltimore or any Baltimore elected officials to support it. And we couldn’t get the House (Democratic) Caucus to pass it.
They kept talking about mass incarceration and all this kind of national Democratic talking points. And I was like, no, we passed criminal justice reform. We lowered our prison population more than any state in America. This is about the people that keep shooting people over and over again. We just need to get these guys off the streets and we’re not. And so our bills — we do polling — and not only was it in the 80s, it was higher in Baltimore City and higher among Black voters statewide, and (Democrats) kept fighting against it. So I think it could have actually made a difference and they were completely wrong on the politics.
[Former Baltimore Mayor and Gov.] Martin O’Malley had mass incarceration, it wasn’t me. I was just trying to get the really bad guys off the streets from killing people.
[My biggest regrets were] probably that one, and on school choice, which is hugely popular among Black voters, and it’s in the 80s in Prince George’s County and in Baltimore City — and they kept fighting on the BOOST Program, the scholarship for poor kids that were in failing schools to give them more opportunity. Those two things are one of the reasons why I have such high approval among Black voters and why I do so much better than [other] Republicans.
MM: You’ve said you’re going to make a decision about the 2024 race for the White House after you leave office. Do you have a feel for how you will get about deciding whether to run?
Gov. Hogan: I think I’ll probably take a vacation first. I only took one in eight years and that was right after the 2018 election. There’s not a real specific process because I’ve never really said that I had to be a candidate.
I will be with my family over the Christmas holidays and I’m sure that subject will come up. And my team here has already expressed their opinions. My political advisers and friends are weighing in every day. Every day people give me their two cents. It really comes down to whether I think I can make a difference and if that’s really the calling. But there’s going to be a lot to enter into that.
MM: You certainly tantalized your supporters at your event at Live! Casino. The final slide on your rally video said “This is just the beginning.”
Gov. Hogan: Well, I didn’t write the slide, but when I saw the draft of the video, I was like, “That’s pretty good, I like that.”
MM: Any regrets about not running against Sen. Van Hollen? If you had won, you might have ended up like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), with outsized influence. And it would have made the Georgia runoff a lot more meaningful.
Gov. Hogan: I have a lot of respect for Joe Manchin. We’re friends. He’s about figuring out solutions and not toeing the party line. I just didn’t have any desire to be a senator. It’s a totally different job than being governor.
MM: Rep. Andy Harris admonished me for referring to Jan. 6 as an “insurrection.” When I asked him what he calls it, he said “a protest gone awry.” Based on the frantic calls you received that day, Maryland’s role in responding to the attack, and everything that we’ve learned since Jan. 6, what do you hear when someone says ‘this was not an insurrection’?
Gov. Hogan: It’s absurd. It was an insurrection. It was the worst assault on democracy in our country’s history. And anybody who says ‘it was tourists’ or ‘protests’ is not being honest or they’re delusional. Because there’s no question about what happened on Jan. 6.
I know for a fact, because we were getting the desperate calls from the leaders of Congress and I was sending in the Maryland State Police and the National Guard. Facts are facts.
MM: Donald Trump had hundreds of opportunities in real time to call those people back and he didn’t.
Gov. Hogan: Yeah. Mike Pence is in the basement of the Capitol. They were threatening his life. And the president just sat there and did nothing to even protect his own vice president who had been so loyal for the whole four years. He didn’t care about members of Congress being threatened, the law enforcement officers who were being attacked, and he let it continue to go on.
MM: And people died.
Gov. Hogan: People died. I was sitting in the governor’s reception room, making decisions and getting calls from the mayor [Muriel Bowser] and from [Rep.] Steny Hoyer and talking to the National Guard generals while we were watching it in real time.
And I was taking actions all day, for hours, while the president sat in the White House doing nothing. And I’m the next door governor. Why is it up to me to save the Capitol? But it was. It’s unreal.