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Republicans rally around Trump with no Hogan in sight

With varying degrees of enthusiasm, Maryland Republicans gathered in Annapolis Saturday to rally around soon-to-be presidential nominee Donald Trump and plan strategy for the fall election.

Representatives of all 23 counties and Baltimore City met to choose at-large delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and members of the party's national governing body, while hearing pep talks urging them to unite behind Trump.

But not at the party's spring convention was Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who has so far declined to support Trump.

For the most part, the delegates and party activists who attended the convention were happy to give the popular governor a pass on his presidential stance.

"Larry Hogan could come to this convention and read us the phone book and we would applaud," said Sen. Steve Waugh of St. Mary's County."Everybody in this room wants to see him do the right thing for the state and we're going to give him the space to do that."

Waugh said he has not yet endorsed Trump but added that he's "getting there."

Others were openly tepid in their support of Trump.

George McDermott, the GOP nominee for Congress in the heavily Democratic 4th District, said he's now a Trump supporter because "I have to be."

"I'm hoping somebody will put a zipper on his mouth and a timer on his brain," said McDermott, who is running against former Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown.

State party Chairwoman Diana Waterman urged Republicans to coalesce around Trump, even if he wasn't their preferred nominee.

"Donald Trump might not have been your first choice.... He might not be in your top 10," she said. "Right now he is your candidate. . . . He is hands-down and head-over-tails above what Hillary Clinton could ever be."

But Waterman said later that her words were not directed at Hogan.

"He's got bigger concerns in running Maryland and governing our state," she said.

U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, who represents the First District, urged his fellow Republicans to come together around Trump. Once a supporter of Dr. Ben Carson's presidential candidacy, Harris said he's now "101 percent enthusiastic" about Trump.

But Harris said he isn't concerned about Hogan's stance so far ahead of the November election.

"Everyone's going to come together in the end," he said.

Some more enthusiastic backers of Trump were showing some impatience with Hogan.

"That is the governor's choice. I can't control his behavior,' said JoeyLynn Hough, Trump's Sixth Congressional District campaign chairwoman.

Frederick County Councilman Billy Shreve warned that Hogan is risking the support of the 54 percent of Maryland Republicans who voted for Trump in the April 26 primary.

"It's going to look really bad if Trump wins Maryland and the governor doesn't come out and support him," Shreve said.

A Hogan spokesman didn't return a message seeking comment.

David Bossie, a nationally-known conservative activist who was elected as the national committeeman, is credited with bringing Trump to Maryland last year as the headline speaker at a party fundraising dinner.

"He and I are personal friends and I've known him for many, many years," Bossie said. "I'll be trying to encourage him and build a relationship between the governor and Mr. Trump over the course of the next six months."

Bossie, chairman of the conservative activist group Citizens United, won a decisive victory over Republican National Committeeman Louis Pope, a longtime party stalwart. Harris nominated Bossie while Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford nominated Pope in what was seen as a struggle between conservative and more moderate forces in the party.

Nicolee Ambrose, the party's national committeewoman, was unopposed for re-election. She said some of the energy behind Bossie's challenge came from Pope's role in crafting a controversial convention rule in 2012 restricting the number of candidate whose names could e place in nomination – a change driven by the Mitt Romney campaign.

Gus Alzona of Montgomery County, who was seeking a delegate spot, wore both Trump and Ted Cruz stickers. He said he would vote for Trump but mostly wanted to work on the party platform.

"I'm looking forward to social conservative wing of the party working out things with Mr. Trump because he needs our votes to win the general election," Alzona said.

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