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Election 2024 Government & Politics

A Q&A with former Gov. Larry Hogan

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) spoke at a news conference in the Maryland State House. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Former Gov. Larry Hogan, who is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, sat down with Nick Iannelli of Maryland Matters’ news partner WTOP News late last week to talk about what will be different if he’s elected, his take on being called a “RINO” and the students protests regarding the war in Gaza.

What follows is a transcript, lightly edited for clarity.

WTOP: You’re well known for talking about dysfunction in Washington. Why do you want to be part of dysfunction in Washington?

Larry Hogan: Well, that’s a great question. I really don’t want to. I mean, who in their right mind would want to be part of that divisiveness and dysfunction? It’s complete gridlock. I think that toxic politics is out of control and crazy. It seems as if the extremes of both parties are the only ones that get all the attention, and nothing ever gets done. So I don’t want to be part of that.

I’m running because I want to try to be part of the solution and be part of cleaning up the mess, and trying to get people to work together in a commonsense, bipartisan way, which is exactly what I accomplished for eight years as governor in the bluest state in America.

WTOP: So in the Republican Party, there’s something of a divide right now.

Larry Hogan: I would say so. I would say in both parties, there’s a pretty big divide. But yeah, no question about it.

WTOP: You being a Republican, if you’re elected, you’re going to have to work with Trump Republicans. Are you going to be able to do that?

Larry Hogan: Well, look, I have support across the spectrum. I mean, when I was reelected in 2018, in a landslide, I became the second Republican reelected in 247 years in the history of the state. We got the support of nearly all the Republicans and nearly all of the independents and about a third of the Democrats. I’m going to go after every single vote. I understand that there’s some disagreements and some people that we’re not going to satisfy or please, but we’re going to compete for every vote and just give it to people straight.

WTOP: When people call you a “RINO,” how do you feel about that?

Larry Hogan: I’ve been active in the Republican Party since I was 10 years old, and I’ve been active for my entire life. They can call me whatever they want. But I’m a traditional Republican that’s been involved in the party for 50 years.

WTOP: If you get to the Senate, what can you do to help improve Maryland’s economy? What are some of the things you can do on the federal level for now?

Larry Hogan: I think right now, I mean it’s not an easy fix. And this is part of getting people on both sides of the aisle to stop demonizing one another and blaming each other and gaming the system — not really trying to work on solutions, but just trying to get likes on Twitter. It seems like people are more interested in not really solving problems, but just gaming the other side or blaming the other side.

We’ve got to get the debt under control. I think it’s a big part of why we have inflation. People out there struggling to pay their bills, the cost of housing is out of control. That’s why I ran for governor, it’s what I focused on, and it was our biggest success. Our economy was 49th out of 50 states, and we had lost 10,000 businesses and 150,000 jobs. And I came in, completely reversed it, took a $5.1 billion deficit, turned it into a $5.5 billion surplus and cut taxes eight years in a row with a Democratic legislature and had a booming economy. I think with the same kinds of fiscal conservative, stimulating the economy, creating opportunity and jobs is what I’d focus on in the Senate.

WTOP: I noticed that you put out a statement regarding the timeline for the rebuild of the Key Bridge. If you’re in the Senate, are you going to do anything to streamline that process?

Larry Hogan: I made comments that we were trying to get the Biden administration to consider streamlining some of the things that will slow down that bridge, so for four or five years, because you know it’s a very important thing, not just for Baltimore, but it’s a federal highway and a very important thing to get done. And you could get it done faster. Most of the delays are the [National Environmental Policy Act] process, the federal-environmental process and the wildlife process [that] you have to go through. And we’ve got to figure out ways to maybe streamline it so we can cut time, which adds more cost and delays. They say now they’re thinking that it could be done by 2028. I mean, it could drag on even further. And, frankly, you could get it done faster if we can streamline things and cut some of the red tape.

WTOP: Let’s talk about the issue of abortion. I covered a lot of Virginia politics as well as Maryland. And we all know what happened with Virginia. Gov. [Glenn] Youngkin (R) coming out saying he supported a 15-week ban. As a Republican, do you support a 15-week ban?

Larry Hogan: My position has been the same for decades. When I was running for governor in 2014, I said I would not take any action to change any of Maryland’s current law on protecting a woman’s right to access to abortion, and I kept that promise for eight years. I’m sure this is an issue we’ll be talking about between now and November. But I’m not a cookie cutter Republican and they can’t use the same generic attacks on me because my position is different.

WTOP: So on abortion, generally speaking, your position is?

Larry Hogan: My position is to not take action to take away women’s right to reproductive health. The first day I announced it, they kind of hit me saying I was going to be the deciding vote for a national abortion ban. I was like, ‘That’s absolutely false. I would not vote for a national abortion ban.’

WTOP: You would not vote for a national abortion ban.

Larry Hogan: No, of course not.

WTOP: On the war in Gaza, to what extent can the U.S. government help with peace with that? As a U.S. senator, what would you do to advocate?

Larry Hogan: We’re all concerned about the tragic loss of innocent life in Gaza. But the real simple way to solve this is that the Hamas terrorists, who are taking advantage of the innocent civilians in Palestine, need to release the hostages and the leaders need to surrender because that’ll end things right away. That’s the easiest solution. But in the meantime, we’ve got to back Israel’s right to continue to go after the people that cause the attacks of Oct. 7 until they eradicate this terrorist organization. Just like we did.

WTOP: Regarding the protests on campus, do you have any particular stance on that?

Larry Hogan: Just like we had the riots in Baltimore in 2015 after I became governor, we fought to make sure that people had the right to peacefully protest. But we also declared a state of emergency and immediately stopped all the violence and stopped the looting and burning. And I think, similar to the college campuses, if people are expressing their First Amendment rights, and they’re out there with legitimate concerns and peaceful protests, we should support their ability to do that. But if they start threatening people’s lives and taking over buildings and destroying property, then they should be moved out of campuses.

WTOP: How about the TikTok ban? Do you have any thoughts about the TikTok ban?

Larry Hogan: The federal government, while I was governor almost two years ago now, warned all the state governors that this was a huge national security threat. They kind of didn’t take action for a long time. We were, I think, the first state in the nation to take action, and ban TikTok off of all of our state devices. People were logging into our systems, they were accessing information that they shouldn’t have access to. So it’s not really a ban, it’s a forced sale of things. So people can still use it, but they don’t want the Communist Chinese government stealing all of our data and information. And I don’t have access to all of the current information, but they did brief us. It’s a pretty serious national security threat.

As part of Maryland Matters’ content sharing agreement with WTOP, we feature this interview from Nick Ianelli. Click here for the WTOP News website.

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A Q&A with former Gov. Larry Hogan