I’m going to give Jackie Wellfonder and her Raging Against the Rhetoric radio show full credit for planting this seed in my mind.
(Spoiler alert: if you want to hear the podcast and be surprised, skip the next sentence.)
Since Jackie essentially threw in her endorsement of Larry Hogan, bemoaning the fact that there’s a missing element among the current contenders which could be added with his entry into the race, I decided to take you back.
Back to early 2010, that is. You may recall that, in the summer of 2009, everyone in the Maryland Republican Party was breathlessly awaiting the decision by Bob Ehrlich whether to try for a rematch of the 2006 election he lost to Martin O’Malley. Yes, there was a candidate in the race by the name of Mike Pappas – a likeable guy to be sure, but not exactly a household name in Maryland.
But since we weren’t sure whether Bob Ehrlich would give up his comfortable semi-retirement from the public arena, someone with a little name recognition had to step in and that someone was Larry Hogan. In the summer of 2009 he began his campaign on a somewhat low-key note, but it picked up steam once Pappas ceded the field to him in November of that year. At that year’s MDGOP Fall Convention Larry was the “it” guy.
So I did a little research, and it turns out Hogan has never relinquished his 2010 campaign website page (http://www.hoganformaryland.com/), his campaign Facebook site (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hogan-for-Maryland/140191322375), and his YouTube site (http://www.youtube.com/user/HoganforMaryland). (The reason I link this way is to memorialize the specific web addresses for archival purposes, such as on the internet’s Wayback Machine, in case he uses the same URLs for 2014.)
With these, we get a little glimpse at where Larry was coming from, and you could see the seeds of what eventually became Change Maryland in some of the statements and videos he put out at the time. It’s clear that Larry would be focusing on the economic aspects of the race.
So we know that, to Larry, pocketbook issues are where it’s at. But there was an interesting sidebar I brought up several months ago which I originally thought precluded a 2014 race from Hogan. We won’t know for awhile how the financial picture is for several of the candidates until their first report is required in January of 2014, but the chances are pretty good that none of them currently have the $325,000 in the coffers that Hogan lent to himself for the last cycle.
As a comparison of sorts, I looked up Bob Ehrlich’s 2001 report – roughly the same timeframe we’re at in this cycle – and he went from a cash balance of $97,008.71 in November, 2000 to $425,147.20 in November, 2001, a year out. For the 2014 campaign, Blaine Young had about $350,000 in the bank at the beginning of this year while David Craig had just a shade over $200,000 on hand. There probably hasn’t been a great deal of movement on these numbers; moreover, the field is now split in four ways. While Blaine Young dropped out and announced his backing of Charles Lollar, I wouldn’t think all Young’s money will be automatically ceded to Charles, since Blaine may have his own personal political plans locally.
So Hogan has some definite advantages. But, beyond the aspect of economics, I’m certain that some will ask – given Hogan’s close ties to Bob Ehrlich – whether Maryland is being set up for the second term Bob Ehrlich never received.
One complaint about our last GOP governor was that, while he was a Republican, he wasn’t conservative. For example, the state’s budget surged 30.8% from FY2003 to FY2007, which is actually a somewhat higher rate than the 25.9% it’s increased since. (Much of Ehrlich’s increase, however, was in his final FY2007 budget, a whopping 12% higher than the FY2006 model.) And while Martin O’Malley rightly is panned for the “rain tax” Bob Ehrlich was the originator of the “flush tax.”
A second argument among Hogan backers is the bipartisan nature of Change Maryland, which they point to as evidence that Larry can gather support from the state’s political majority. I have no doubt that many Democrats would support Hogan on the economic front, but what of the Democrats who cross over on a number of other conservative issues such as Maryland’s onerous new gun laws, our growing reputation as a sanctuary state for illegal aliens based on items like in-state tuition for the children of these scofflaws, the adoption of gay marriage in Maryland, or the extreme tilt of our state on abortion? There are pockets of Democrats and unaffiliated voters who are looking for the right Republican to back on those issues; one with a conservative message Bob Ehrlich didn’t send out.
These are issues which Larry can weigh in on if and when he decides to jump into the race. But once the field got to four the last time, Blaine Young took an early exit – so the question is who would be most likely to fold if Hogan got in?
My guess is that Larry would take more support from Ron George and David Craig than he would Charles Lollar, so with a smaller support base George could be the one knocked out. This is based on two factors: I don’t think we will have four contenders all the way to the primary, and since Larry Hogan deferred once in seeking the office I don’t think he would do so again. And I think two business owners from Anne Arundel County are too many for the race, so if Hogan is in I think Ron George becomes the one out.
They may surprise me, I don’t know. But, unlike Jackie, I had no problem with the field as it was, and I think if Larry Hogan was going to get in he should have already started. Change Maryland and its social media presence is one thing, but social media is no substitute for running an actual campaign, knocking on real doors, and pressing the flesh.