Winning the governorship in a blue state like Maryland was a difficult challenge for Republican Larry Hogan, but now comes the really, really hard part: governing with all those Democrats in the legislature.
Hogan’s upset victory had some elements of luck and good timing, combined with a favorable political environment. Even some Democratic voters — about 28%, the Hogan camp estimates — were unhappy enough with a sluggish economy, slow wage growth and persistent tax hikes that they were willing to vote for a Republican.
Not just any Republican, but one whose message for four years was about overspending, tax hikes, and too many jobs and businesses lost.
He refused to engage in discussion of social issues such as guns, gay marriage and immigration, saying they were settled matters, though he disagreed with how they were settled. This made him the most moderate of the four Republicans running, yet he won the GOP primary with 42% of the vote, showing the moderate pragmatism of many Republicans.
Hogan created the organization Change Maryland in 2011 to carry his message as a kind of shadow campaign to test the waters. Once he decided to run, he had the discipline to communicate that message consistently while being outspent 4 to 1 by the Brown-Ulman campaign. According to an accounting by WBAL-TV, Hogan had 16 people on paid staff for the general election, and Brown had more than 200.
Marketing Campaign to Corporate CEO
So now he goes from running what was essentially a marketing campaign with a couple million dollars to spend mostly on advertising and fewer than two dozen paid staffers to running a complicated $40 billion corporation with 51,000 employees (not counting 25,000 at the state universities) delivering a wide array of services. These include prisons, schools, hospitals, health insurance, police, roads, mass transit, airports, parks, forests and the Chesapeake Bay.
This would be a complicated undertaking even if he had run a similar unit of business or government. But Hogan was a commercial real estate developer managing a small business.
In about 75 days after his election, he was expected to assemble an executive team, select 20 division heads (cabinet secretaries) and prepare the budget for next year — all with staff members and volunteers who don’t go on the government payroll till he takes office.
To top it off, he has to contend with an independent board of directors known as the Maryland General Assembly. He and his board may be in general agreement with what state government should do, but they certainly don’t agree about how to do it.
Stressing Bipartisan Cooperation
From his earliest days starting Change Maryland through his post-election transition, Hogan has emphasized bipartisan, common sense solutions, a message that he stuck to in his inaugural address. But he also gave his Republican base some reasons to cheer the speech with a call to “get the state government off of our backs and out of our pockets,” a phrase sure to rankle Democrats.
Senate President Mike Miller, who has known Hogan and his father for 50 years, has been making the most cooperative comments. He was one of the only Democratic members of the legislature to attend Hogan’s inaugural gala (though most legislators did attend the inauguration itself).
House Speaker Michael Busch has pledged to work with the new Republican governor, but he faces a much larger contingent of progressive Democrats in the House than Miller does in the Senate.
The new chief executive and his board of directors are still feeling each other out.
Few Specifics ’til Now
Throughout the transition, Hogan refused to spell out specifics of his policies or his budget. There’s only one governor at a time, he would say.
Now, he’s the man.
Not surprisingly, his budget has drawn fire for its cuts in the growth of school funding, limiting increases to 1% a year. He cut cost-of-living raises for state employees, including the 2% raise they got just this year.
Busch and other Democrats have already been critical of these cuts, as have the unions for teachers and state workers, part of the permanent base of the Democratic Party in Maryland.
None of Hogan’s budget decisions have been terribly radical, and most have been used by O’Malley in some form to balance previous budgets. What’s new is that Hogan proposes a permanent cap on the increases to spending on schools, health care and debt — the main drivers of the growth in the budget.
This is bound to put a strain on bipartisanship. Some Democratic legislators are already clamoring for higher corporate taxes through the technique known as “combined reporting.”
But Hogan has pledged to roll back as many of the tax increases O’Malley enacted as possible, not raise taxes on some businesses. McCormick & Co., the spice merchant, has supposedly threatened to leave the state if combined reporting passes. It’s already looking to move out of its international headquarters in Hunt Valley.
Business Background Preferred
A striking feature of Hogan’s cabinet picks is how many people have a business background, as he does, in addition to some government experience relevant to their new jobs — often in the Ehrlich administration, in which Hogan served as appointments secretary.
This private sector experience even applied to the new adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, Linda Singh. Not only did she have 33 years in the U.S. Army Reserve and become the first woman to head the Maryland Army National Guard. She was also a managing director at Accenture, a major management consulting and technology services company. In Fortune magazine last year, she had a chance to explain how she got there from being a homeless teenage high school drop-out.
Joe Bartenfelder, Hogan’s choice to be secretary of agriculture, has been a working farmer while serving in public office. Van Mitchell, the new health secretary, had been a business lobbyist and head of a building supply company before serving in the legislature and as deputy secretary of health.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford has not only served as secretary of general services in Maryland and assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but he has also been a practicing attorney in business law.
The private sector backgrounds are in stark contrast to members of the O’Malley administration, who mostly had backgrounds in government and politics.
Rutherford also represents some of the strong Howard County connections in the Hogan administration at the top. Boyd and his wife, Monica, have lived in Columbia for years, and their children went to Howard County public schools.
Hogan met his future wife Yumi Kim at an exhibit of her art in Wilde Lake in 2001. Kim was living in Howard County at the time, with three daughters from her first marriage, and they all went to Howard County schools. It was a first marriage for Hogan.
Another Howard Countian, former state senator Marty Madden, was also a key member of his transition team and is now a senior adviser to the new governor.