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Hogan people's celebration made for average citizen

Gov. Larry Hogan greets a support at event in Cambridge.
Gov. Larry Hogan greets a support at event in Cambridge.

They came by the hundreds, wearing jeans and baseball caps, and rocked to live country music as they partied with the new Republican governor they helped vote into office.

Dubbed the "people's celebration," the event Saturday night at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge was a more laid-back affair than the traditional inaugural ball held Wednesday for Gov. Larry Hogan.

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It was also a way for Hogan to show his appreciation for the Eastern Shore electorate, which provided some of the largest vote margins in his upset over Democrat Anthony Brown. Hogan became Maryland's 62nd governor and just the third Republican to hold that position in the last half-century.

Hogan has said that average people boosted him to victory, allowing him to carry 20 of the state's 23 counties and all its rural areas. The event was the first of the inaugural activities planned by the new governor, said Wendy Hershey, a member of his staff.

"This is something he wanted to do," she said. "He loves being with the people."

"We would not be in the position we are in without the people in this room," Hogan told the crowd. He added that they would have a friend and sympathetic ear in Annapolis, and said he had already acted to roll back regulations that would hurt farmers.

The $25-a-ticket event contrasted with the formal ball held at the Baltimore Convention Center on the day Hogan took office. People there wore tuxedos and gowns, paying $100 to enter. A 17-piece band played, and oversized globes and streamers the colors of Maryland's flag hung from the ceiling while people sipped wine and cocktails.

At Sailwinds, the musicians performed in the 14,000-square-foot festival hall decorated with plastic tablecloths, balloonbouquets and a Maryland flag hanging from the back wall. People drank beer and ate shucked oysters in honor of Shore culture. A local restaurant, Smokehouse Grill of Kent Island, served up pit beef, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and other down-home staples.

Two local bands, Speakers of the House and Sly 45, entertained the crowd with a song list that included selections from the Zac Brown Band, Hogan's favorite group.

Supporters surrounded the governor and applauded loudly when he entered. Some were dressed in suits while others wore more causal attire. Hogan's wife, Yumi, an artist and adjunct faculty member at the Maryland Institute College of Art, also attended, as did the couple's three daughters and other relatives.

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Sailwinds Park, which overlooks the Choptank River, was the site of Hogan's largest event during the campaign, a fundraiser with local farmers and watermen.

"He knows what they mean to this area," Hershey said.

Those attending the event said it showed Hogan cares about all Marylanders. They hoped it would usher in an era of inclusiveness to state politics.

"This shows how much he appreciates the people of the state — all those that voted for him," said Ashley Sherbert, 26, an environmental health specialist.

Her fiance, Gary Baxter, 25, said the event illustrated Hogan's down-to-earth side — a reason Baxter voted for him.

"He is like a common person," Baxter said. "He doesn't have that political aura."

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Joyce and Bob Kirkley said they hope that Hogan's win will mean a more fiscally responsible government and more inclusiveness.

"I think this an opportunity for a new start," said Joyce Kirkley, 81, who is retired from teaching and real estate. "I think he is a man of the people."

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