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Maryland Democrats hire strategist to focus on Hogan

Erin Cox
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun
Maryland Democratic Party hired a worker to focus on keeping Republican Gov. Larry Hogan "accountable."

The Maryland Democratic Party announced Tuesday it hired a communications adviser to focus on "holding Gov. Larry Hogan accountable."

Hogan, a popular Republican, has amassed a $5.1 million war chest for his 2018 re-election bid, and Democrats have not coalesced around a candidate to face him.

In recent weeks, the Democratic Party has aggressively sought to tie Hogan to Republican President Donald J. Trump, pressuring the governor to take a position on Trump's controversial travel ban. Hogan has declined to do so.

The Democrats hired Bryan Lesswing to manage the party's "communications and messaging strategy focused on holding Governor Larry Hogan accountable," according to a news release. Lesswing most recently worked as a regional press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

He issued his first attack on the governor Tuesday, noting Hogan endorsed fighting the federal government on environmental issues when Democrat Barack Obama was president.

A spokeswoman for the governor dismissed the attack.

"It's hardly breaking news that a partisan political organization is engaging in partisan political activities, however we do appreciate them highlighting that the governor has consistently called for tougher environmental protections," Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chasse said in an email.

The Democratic Governors Association, which works to elect Democrats to lead states across the country, began criticizing Hogan for not taking a position on Trump's candidacy last year. Hogan later said he would not vote for the New York businessman, who won the Electoral College in November but in Maryland lost to Democrat Hillary Clinton by a landslide.

In December, the DGA began targeting Hogan with e-mail blasts accusing the governor of having ties to the Trump administration.

Hogan has sought to distance himself from the president, refusing to answer some questions about him.

When people bombarded the governor's Facebook page recently asking him to take a position, the governor deleted the requests and banned some of the posters from commenting again. His staff said they considered the request part of an organized political "spam" attack.

Maryland's governor, whose job approval ratings have been above 70 percent in recent months, has helped raise money for the Republican Governors Association, the counterpart of the DGA, and serves on the organization's executive committee.

There are 33 Republican and 17 Democratic governors in the country, a status quo one group fights to protect and the other to change.

Several Maryland Democrats have said they're considering a challenge to Hogan, including Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, but none has launched a campaign.

ecox@baltsun.com

twitter.com/ErinatTheSun

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