Larry Hogan is a Republican governor in a very blue state, Maryland, and is running for a second and final term with a favorability rating that has consistently hovered around 70 percent. That favorability rating is second among all governors. Only Republican Charlie Baker of another blue state, Massachusetts, has a higher favorability score.
Does any Democrat have a snowball's chance in hell to unseat this extremely popular incumbent governor? More specifically, does the Democrat who will be selected in the primary election on June 26 from a current field of nine candidates to challenge Governor Hogan in the general election in November have a fighting chance to unseat the incumbent?
The answer is a resounding yes, but only if the campaign focuses on the right issues; issues that will crack that favorability rating wide open and expose the reality of the past four years.
Elizabeth Embry, the running mate of Democratic candidate Rushern Baker, pointed out throughout the primary campaign that a much more revealing poll and one that gives Democrats hope is the one that asked not whether the individual liked Larry Hogan but, rather, whether the individual would vote for Larry Hogan. That poll had a considerably different result. That number fell far below 50 percent ranging around 44 percent.
There is hope for Democrats but only if they seize the opportunity
Paul Bessel, Chair of the Montgomery County Charter Review Commission, shared with me some of his thoughts on the issues that must be raised during the election to shine a more revealing light on the Hogan administration. According to Bessel, voters must be made aware of a whole host of issues that have not been brought before a strong enough light.
Under Larry Hogan Maryland’s school rankings, once the best in the country, have dropped every year since he took office in 2014. Moreover, he attempted to cut funds for public schools but was stopped by the Democratic legislature. The state commission on education stated that Larry Hogan’s budgets have underfunded our schools by almost $3 billion.
If that is not bad enough, Larry Hogan is a fan of Betsy DeVos, the unfit Trump appointee as Secretary of Education dedicated to increasing the use of taxpayer funds for private school vouchers.
Maryland’s healthcare is also at risk under Larry Hogan, who was silent as Trump tried to kill the Affordable Care Act, putting the health of 400,000 citizens of Maryland in jeopardy. Further, Governor Hogan has not offered any plan, after a one-year fix expires, to stabilize the health insurance market and costs in Maryland. Just as egregious, Governor Hogan underfunded the Heroin & Opioid Prevention Effort (HOPE) by some $16 million necessitating the Democratic State Legislature to return these funds.
Governor Hogan has put business interests ahead of environmental concerns as evidenced by enforcement of environmental crimes being the lowest in two decades. Moreover, Governor Hogan vetoed a bill to speed up the move toward use of solar and wind energy, necessitating the Democratic State Legislature to override the veto. He has consistently resisted air-quality improvements and opposed the Maryland anti-fracking ban before finally signing it.
Governor Hogan backs weaker gun safety legislation as evidenced by his A-rating from, endorsement by and campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association. He also opposed a ban on bump stocks, which turn semi-automatic weapons into more deadly automatic weapons, and only signed the legislation in the aftermath of the Great Mills High School tragedy. He is also on record as opposing Maryland’s Firearms Safety Act of 2013 while supporting the carrying of concealed weapons.
The list goes on.
Governor Hogan is obviously not a fan of mass transit as he opposed Metro funding and sacrificed some $900 million in federal funds for the Red Line in Baltimore. He clearly favors roads over mass transit as he wants to let private companies widen I-270 and I-495 and build so-called “managed lanes” with extremely high tolls. “Private,” by the way, is often a euphemism for “profit.”
Job growth in Maryland under Governor Hogan sorely lags behind Virginia and the unemployment rate in Maryland is higher than the national average. He also vetoed the legislature’s paid sick leave bill and, once again, it took a Democratic State Legislature override of the governor's veto to enact the legislation. Add to this the fact that Governor Hogan was silent when Trump tried to cut the budget of the National Institutes of Health by some 20% even though NIH is a major employer in Montgomery County.
Thank you, Paul Bessel, for bringing these issues to light. Whether the Democratic nominee uses them remains to be seen, but I think it safe to say that there is enough ammunition in these issues for Democrats to shatter that favorability rating.
If that is not enough, there is always the Chris Christie analogy to turn to. Christie, a Republican governor in the very blue state of New Jersey, played the role of moderate during his first term. After winning re-election for his second and final term due to term limits, as is the case in Maryland, he became not so moderate after all as his true ultra-conservative leanings were exposed for all to sadly see.
As we approach the 2020 census and the drawing of district lines who we have sitting in the governor's chair in the State House takes on extra importance. The question before voters is whether Larry Hogan will be Maryland's version of Chris Christie in a second term.
It is a question well worth considering.