While endorsements are usually trumpeted by the campaign receiving them, in this case it was Hogan's Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, spreading the news. The Brown campaign sent out a news release highlighting a report in the Washington Post of Hogan's support by the NRA's Political Victory Fund.
The Brown camp is betting that the NRA endorsement will be a kiss of death for Hogan, who has been campaigning on an economic platform while arguing that social issues such as gun control and abortion should not be factors in the Nov. 4 election.
The NRA announcement on its web site said it is backing Hogan because of his "support for and commitment to the Second Amendment."
"Larry Hogan respects the rule of law and the Second Amendment rights of Maryland’s law-abiding citizens. In sharp contrast, his opponent, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, is a true enemy of gun owners' rights," the NRA said.
Erin Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the Hogan campaign, said Hogan had not sought the endorsement of the NRA and was surprised to have received it.
However, Brown campaign manager Justin Schall rejected that contention, saying Hogan filled out a questionnaire for the NRA.
"The only reason you fill out the questionnaire is to seek the endorsement," he said.
Polling has shown that Marylanders generally view gun control proposals more favorably than those in other states. In 2013, Gov. Martin O'Malley won General Assembly approval of a sweeping new gun control bill in the wake of the December 2012 shooting that killed 26 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The legislation included a ban on the sale of certain assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, as well as required background checks and fingerprinting of handgun purchasers.
That legislation was a topic in the three recent televised debates between Brown and Hogan. During the debates Hogan said he was supportive of an assault weapon ban and background checks and opposed the bill because it didn't go far enough. However, during the Republican primary campaign, Hogan said he was against the bill because it went too far.
The Brown campaign used the NRA endorsement to press its demand that Hogan release the questionnaire he filled out for the group before earning an A- from it. The NRA gave Brown, who supported the bill, an F.
"Larry Hogan has refused to release his NRA questionnaire because he doesn't want Marylanders to know the truth about his pro-gun agenda," Schall said.
Gov. Martin O'Malley joined in the criticism of Hogan through his national political action committee, the O Say Can You See PAC, as he distributed an online petition urging Hogan to release the questionnaire.