Ho­gan shows GOP how to draw sup­port from both par­ties


Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice

— Through­out the 2016 pri­maries, na­tional fig­ures like pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump and Ver­mont Sen. Bernie San­ders en­thralled pri­mary vot­ers with hard­line ide­o­log­i­cal po­si­tions.

But Mary­land Gov. Larry Ho­gan took another ap­proach — a form of mod­er­ate pop­ulism with bi­par­ti­san ap­peal.

In or­der to gain sup­port in a strongly blue state — the sec­ond-most Demo­cratic state in the na­tion, ac­cord­ing to a 2015 Gallup poll — Repub­li­can Ho­gan has cen­tered his ef­forts on fis­cal poli­cies while stay­ing away from so­cial is­sues.

With Trump poised to ac­cept the Repub­li­can Party’s nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent this week, he could take a page from Ho­gan’s play book if he wants to gain some cross­party ap­peal in the gen­eral elec­tion race. Or it could be a party les­son for 2020, should he lose to pre­sump­tive Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton in Novem­ber.

Todd Eberly, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science and pub­lic pol­icy at St. Mary’s Col­lege, said Ho­gan is po­ten­tially pro­vid­ing a win­ning model for the GOP in the 2020 gen­eral elec­tion if Trump — who has a 60 per­cent un­fa­vor­able rat­ing ac­cord­ing to the Real Clear Pol­i­tics ag­gre­gate of polls — loses.

Like Trump, Ho­gan has ex­pe­ri­ence as a busi­ness­man. But Ho­gan, Eberly said, is also more “mild-man­nered” and has shown he can win — and main­tain pop­u­lar­ity in — blue states.

“If 2016 goes poorly, (Repub­li­cans) will be look­ing around come 2020 for some­one to right the ship and cor­rect mis­takes made in nom­i­nat­ing some­one like Trump,” he said. “In some re­spects, in many re­spects, he’s sort of


the anti-Trump.”

Ho­gan has con­tin­ued to fo­cus on low­er­ing taxes and fees for Mary­lan­ders. In Septem­ber 2015, Ho­gan an­nounced plans to re­duce fees paid by state tax­pay­ers by around $51 mil­lion over a five-year pe­riod through mea­sures such as a re­duc­tion to $1 for home­less iden­ti­fi­ca­tion cards and elim­i­na­tion of the $1.50 monthly EZ-pass fees.

He also or­dered the re­duc­tion of 100 fees across the state gov­ern­ment and another 115 re­lated to an­i­mal health di­ag­nos­tics at the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture.

And those poli­cies worked in his fa­vor. In April 2016, as the Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly leg­isla­tive ses­sion reached its con­clu­sion, Ho­gan’s ap­proval rat­ing scaled to 66 per­cent, mak­ing him the most pop­u­lar gov­er­nor since at least 1998, ac­cord­ing to a Wash­ing­ton Post and Univer­sity of Mary­land poll.

On May 12, he an­nounced an ad­di­tional $60 mil­lion in fee cuts for busi­nesses and tax­pay­ers. He’s also vowed to lower state bor­row­ing and spend­ing, propos­ing a $17.1 bil­lion op­er­at­ing bud­get for fis­cal year 2017 that would leave a sur­plus of nearly $450 mil­lion.

“This state is open to the mid­dle,” said Joe Clus­ter, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mary­land Repub­li­can Party. “He’s not a gov­er­nor for just Repub­li­cans. He’s a gov­er­nor for all Mary­lan­ders.”

Dan Nataf, the di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for the Study of Lo­cal Is­sues at Anne Arun­del Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Arnold, said Ho­gan has main­tained his pop­u­lar­ity in the state be­cause he avoided those so­cial is­sues that a ma­jor­ity of Mary­lan­ders fa­vor.

In 2012, this state be­came the first to af­firm the right of same-sex cou­ples to wed through a pop­u­lar vote when res­i­dents cast their bal­lots 52.4 to 47.6 per­cent in fa­vor of Ques­tion 6. The ref­er­en­dum asked vot­ers to ap­prove or re­ject the Civil Mar­riage Pro­tec­tion Act, which le­gal­ized gay mar­riage.

A 2014 Pew Re­search Cen­ter Poll found that nearly half of Repub­li­cans and Repub­li­can-lean­ing vot­ers within the state — 45 per­cent — think abor­tion should be le­gal in all or most cases. Seven­ty­four per­cent of Demo­cratic or Demo­cratic-lean­ing vot­ers said the same.

In a state where Democrats out­num­ber Repub­li­cans by a roughly 2-1 mar­gin, that in­di­cates a solid ma­jor­ity of state vot­ers are in fa­vor of abor­tion rights.

But if Ho­gan were to live in a more con­ser­va­tive state, Nataf said, he would be forced to take a more par­ti­san po­si­tion, likely in­cit­ing con­tro­versy that would draw at­ten­tion away from fis­cal po­si­tions.

“In some states, like in the South and Mid­west, the Ho­gan model wouldn’t work be­cause there is a larger Chris­tian Fun­da­men­tal­ist pop­u­la­tion that would force him to be more con­ser­va­tive on cul­tural is­sues,” Nataf said. “The model — avoid so­cial stuff and fo­cus on mod­er­ate fis­cal is­sues — shows it can be used in a blue state.”

Louis Pope, the na­tional com­mit­tee­man for the Mary­land Repub­li­can Party, said other Repub­li­can gov­er­nors in usu­ally blue states have fol­lowed a sim­i­lar path to suc­cess as Ho­gan.

Pope points to Mas­sachusetts Gov. Char­lie Baker and Illi­nois Gov. Bruce Rauner, both busi­ness­man and Repub­li­cans, as par­al­lels to Ho­gan.

Dur­ing their cam­paigns, all three said they would not delve into so­cial is­sues and in­stead con­cen­trate on con­ser­va­tive fis­cal po­si­tions like tax re­duc­tion, Pope said.

Keep­ing their prom­ises, he con­tin­ued, has en­deared them to their con­stituents.

“They all won in up­sets,” Pope said. “It’s a win­ning strat­egy, but it’s not a unique strat­egy.”


Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s fo­cus on eco­nomic rather than so­ci­etal mat­ters has been a win­ning strat­egy in state pol­i­tics, ex­perts say. He showed that fo­cus ear­lier this month in a visit to War­wick Mushroom Farm.


The the 14th-an­nual 55+ Healthy Lifestyle Expo will take place at Elk­ton High School on Aug. 4.

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