Maryland Republicans came together Thursday night to unite behind Larry Hogan's candidacy for governor as his defeated primary foes vowed at a unity rally to work for his election in November.
Harford County Executive David R. Craig, Charles County business executive Charles Lollar and Del. Ron George -- the second through fourth-place finisher's in Tuesday's count -- shared a stage with a beaming Hogan at the Severna Park gathering of several hundred cheering Republicans.
Hogan praised each of his defeated rivals and said each was on board with his general election campaign.
"They all did a heck of a job. They all ran great campaigns," Hogan said.
The crowd greeted each of the candidates enthusiastically, optimistic that Hogan's message of changing Maryland's economic policies could prevail in deeply blue Maryland, where Democrats have a 2-1 registration advantage.
Hogan promised to run an aggressive campaign against the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown.
"We're going to take this fight to Anthony Brown. We're going to fight him tooth and nail," Hogan said.
The Republican gubernatorial campaign had some small moments of contention but for the most part was a cordial affair in which the candidates largely agreed on the central issues. The display of unity at the rally extender to the winner and loser of a far more contentious primary as Del. Steve Schuh, the GOP nominee for Anne Arundel County executive, called defeated incumbent Laura Neuman to the stage to shake hands and embrace.
Craig said he plans to meet with Hogan some time next week to discuss what role the nominee would like him to play in the campaign. The Harford executive said the Republican challenge is not uniting behind Craig but getting Republicans to the polls for the general election after a low-turnout primary.
"We'll have to double down on our efforts to turn out votes in November," Craig said. George and Lollar also pledged to work to elect Hogan.
Don Murphy, a former member of the House of Delegates who now works in the Neuman administration, said last night's rally was the most thorough display of party unity after an election in the last 20 years. He contrasted it with the last time the party had as hotly contested a primary, when Ellen Sauerbrey beat Helen Delich Bentley in 1994. After that race, there was no quick reconciliation an show of unity, he recalled.
"If Ellen and Helen had embraced the way these guys have, we would have had a Republican governor in 1994," Murphy said. Sauerbrey lost that general election to Democrat Parris N. Glendening by about 6,000 votes.