Problem resolved

Earlier this week my friend and colleague Jackie Wellfonder did a piece about two possible entrants to the 2014 Maryland GOP gubernatorial chase, Michael Steele and Larry Hogan. While I’ve written about Steele’s bid in regards to how it would affect the race, I’ve sort of dismissed Hogan’s chances for two reasons.

One reason is reminiscent of why Newt Gingrich didn’t run for president in 2008 – at the time, Newt was getting American Solutions off the ground and couldn’t legally maintain his leadership role with that group while participating in an exploratory committee. While the rules are probably different in Maryland, Hogan’s role as leader of Change Maryland – a group he regularly touts as nonpartisan – may have to be ceded should he decide to get into the race for governor.

Wellfonder, though, makes the point an upcoming fundraiser Hogan is hosting on Change Maryland’s behalf could be an opportunity to announce, and the timing would be correct. But this might also be a little deceptive, since those who attend may be interested in helping Change Maryland financially but may not necessarily be as willing to support a Hogan gubernatorial bid; in fact, this sort of speculation might just keep would-be supporters who back other candidates away.

In truth, insuring that fundraiser’s success given the important role Change Maryland is playing in Maryland’s conservative movement is a pretty compelling reason itself to end the speculation and announce he would take a pass on 2014. But the other reason I had mentally checked Larry off the list was shown here, on page 3:

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I first accessed this file back in January, at a time I was trying to line up an interview with Larry for my moribund Ten Question Tuesday segment. It was still on my computer here because I don’t clean out my “downloads” folder. But it was an “aha!” moment of sorts, particularly when you figure $325,000 is a sizable chunk of change from anyone’s personal funds outside of Warren Buffett or Bill Gates.

However, I found out last night there’s more to the story. In fact, the 2012 campaign finance report I cited was later corrected because Hogan paid off the loans in 2010 once he wound down the exploratory committee. (Page 5 on both documents.)

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The original 2012 report I saw back in January and filed in July of 2011 was what I based my mistaken assumption on. Now one could come back and say that Hogan and his treasurer filed a false report, but it’s worth pointing out that these were corrected several months ago, not at a time when public outcry demanded it. It may have been as simple as forgetting to eliminate the last page from the filed report, since generally reports have to be carried over from one reporting period to the next; perhaps the state Board of Elections noticed the discrepancy and alerted Hogan’s campaign treasurer to it as they reviewed all the 2012 information.

In short, someone made a mistake, it was fixed, no harm no foul. This should be a non-issue, and I bring it up only to explain some of the reasoning I had all but dismissed Hogan as a 2014 candidate. In fact, one could use this to argue he believed strongly enough in the state to put that much of a personal stake in the race, even as he promised to withdraw if Bob Ehrlich ran. (Never mind the formation of Change Maryland and all the time and effort Larry surely puts into it.)

Given the already-crowded field and the possibility Michael Steele could indeed get into the race, I’m still fairly convinced Larry Hogan will be happy to remain on the sidelines. However, should he decide to run it will be with a clean slate financially.