Can Hogan be a Maryland hero in 2014?

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 (, his campaign Facebook site (, and his YouTube site ( (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.

The exit strategy

I wasn’t going to crack the whip again on the rapidly expiring horse known as a week of furious activity in the 2014 governor’s race until I followed a link at Maryland Reporter and found this Daniel Leaderman piece in the Gazette on Michael Steele. The most interesting sentence to me was this one:

“I’ve stated several times that I think Michael Steele’s our best shot,” (gubernatorial candidate and Frederick County Commission President Blaine) Young said, adding that he will not run if Steele does. (Emphasis mine.)

It’s interesting to note that Young first alluded to this possibility of Steele entering the race in my presence back in February, when he was here speaking with the Wicomico County Republican Club.

Unlike the 2010 race where everyone was waiting to see what Bob Ehrlich would do – even in July of 2009 at the Tawes event we only had two gubernatorial contenders, Mike Pappas and Charles Lollar – this time around no one waited for Michael Steele. Yet if Michael gets into the race, he’s probably the leading contender as most rank-and-file Republicans (the ones who only pay attention every couple years as opposed to junkies like me who write about these races on a constant basis) probably have fond memories of the Lieutenant Governor; moreover, Steele can take some credit for the electoral successes for Republicans in 2010 – and probably will on the campaign trail.

Blaine’s admission that he would withdraw if Steele gets into the race sort of sets the tone for other contenders as well. We found out late last month that Dan Bongino would take a pass on a statewide race next year in favor of a Congressional run – perhaps he knew something not yet cleared for public consumption? – and Blaine could comfortably slot himself into a bid for the newly-created Frederick County Executive post, albeit not without GOP opposition. At just 41 years of age, there’s certainly time for Young to work on a future run for statewide office in 2018 or 2022.

Other contenders find themselves in different positions, though. Because of a residency requirement snafu, Charles Lollar had to downgrade his 2010 campaign to one for a Fifth District Congressional seat. Unlike some of his cohorts, though, Lollar doesn’t have a long resume of elective office to fall back on so it may be logical that, if Charles can’t build on his base of support within the TEA Party community for a statewide race, he could go for a local Delegate or State Senate race – his home county is fertile ground for GOP challengers because the incumbents are Democrats and Lollar only needs a top-three finish for a House seat.

Ron George could obviously run again for Delegate if he decides to abort his statewide plans early enough, but as a guy who’s turning 60 later this year, his prime days of grabbing the brass ring may soon be behind him. In the last 50 years, only one governor (William Donald Schaefer) has been initially elected beyond the age of 60, so this may be Ron’s one shot at glory.

That being said, history is definitely not on the side of David Craig, who is term-limited out his current job as Harford County Executive and has been essentially running for governor over the last two years. Of all those mentioned, I think he’s most likely to stick the race out and challenge Steele should Michael get into the race. Craig really has the most to lose in terms of time invested in the race to just roll over for Steele.

I don’t see this as a four-way race (Craig, George, Lollar, Steele) all the way to the primary, but I don’t see this as a Steele walkover either. In fact, given certain circumstances we could see this split the party into several different factions, not unlike the recent Chair race.

Yet if Michael Steele is planning to jump into the race, it would be best to not keep everyone hanging until just a few months before the primary like Bob Ehrlich did in 2010. That sense of entitlement exhibited by getting in at a late date – and particularly this time, when several have stated their desire for the race and amassed funds and volunteers hoping to dismantle the Democratic status quo – would probably do more to harm the Maryland Republican Party’s chances for downticket success than the 2010 Ehrlich debacle did. That was a year when success was created in spite of the state party, not because of it.

Once upon a time Michael Steele was Chair of the Maryland Republican Party. The best thing he can do for it now is make his intentions known sooner rather than later, so other pieces can fall into place.

Ehrlich won’t rule out Senate run

Bob Ehrlich surprised a group in Pikesville this morning by telling a questioner at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast that a Senate run against Barbara Mikulski was still “in the mix.

That news may come as a shock should Ehrlich follow through with a Senate campaign, especially to a group of eleven people: the seven candidates who are already running for the Republican nomination to unseat the four-term incumbent (leading the way are Carmen Amedori, Jim Rutledge, and Eric Wargotz), the three men who explored but dropped out of the GOP race for governor (Mike Pappas, Larry Hogan, and Delegate Pat McDonough), and Brian Murphy, who might have the GOP nod handed to him as the only other active candidate seeking the Republican nomination for governor.

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