"He has to be careful about how he presents himself," Crenson said. Though there are tea party activists in the Maryland Republican party, there are more moderates, he said. Hogan "needs to pitch his primary campaign to them rather than to the right wing of the party," Crenson added. "That will also enable him if he wins in the primary to do better in the general election."

Two of Hogan's rivals welcomed him, giving no indication of backing out.

"It's like, finally!" said George, remarking on the long run-up of publicity about Hogan eyeing the race. "I think it's healthy," George said of the extra competition.

Jim Pettit, spokesman for Craig, praised Hogan for calling attention through Change Maryland to the fiscal and economic issues on which all the Republican candidates are running. Pettit once worked for Change Maryland, generating some of the data Hogan frequently cites about businesses and affluent taxpayers leaving the state.

"Larry Hogan and Change Maryland have done an effective job building a media platform to help Marylanders understand the issues and problems that we face," Pettit said.

"The question," Pettit added, "is who among the candidates is best able to offer solutions." He noted Craig has been a state lawmaker, a mayor and county executive, and has governing experience in reducing taxes and attracting businesses in Harford.

Hogan said he believes if elected he can work with a Democrat-controlled legislature, recalling that as Ehrlich's appointments secretary, he had only one nomination that wasn't unanimously confirmed by lawmakers of both parties. Ehrlich's first choice to be secretary of the environment, Lynn Buhl, was rejected by the Senate.

Hogan is not expected to name a running mate this week. He has until Feb. 25 to choose a running mate and file candidacy papers.

Earlier this month, the Change Maryland web site began carrying the authority line of the Hogan for Governor campaign.

Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, said the conversion to an explicit arm of the Hogan campaign means the group should consult with the State Board of Elections to see whether any of its fundraising and spending need to be disclosed retroactively.

Steve Crim, a spokesman for Hogan for Governor, said the old organization never engaged in campaign activity. He said Hogan's campaign lawyers talked with the elections board and determined none of Change Maryland's activities needed to be reported.

Michael Dresser contributed to this story.

Tim.wheeler@baltsun.com

Larry Hogan

Job: CEO of the Hogan Cos.

Age: 57

Resides: Edgewater

Party: Republican

Education: B.A., Florida State University

Experience: Businessman; appointments secretary for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Personal: Married, three daughters