Hogan officially launches re-election campaign, Democrats start counter-offensive

Erin Cox
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan kicked off his 2018 reelection bid Saturday before a cheering crowd of several hundred supporters in Annapolis, touting his high job approval ratings and crediting himself with turning around the state’s economy.

“An overwhelming majority of Democrats and independents and Republicans approve of the job that we’re doing,” Hogan said. “So, maybe they should just consider letting us continue to do this job for another four years.”

Hogan, 62, quoted Democratic President John F. Kennedy and cast himself as a rare modern politician who sought bipartisanship over bickering.

“Unlike Washington, where nobody gets along and nothing ever seems to get done, here in Maryland, we’ve chosen a different path,” he said.

Outside his rally at Union Jack’s British Pub, a small crowd of protesters gathered on the first day of the Democratic Party’s “Shortchange Maryland” tour designed to tell voters that the governor has mischaracterized his record.

“We think we need to get the message out about who Larry Hogan is,” Maryland Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Mathews said after rain dispersed the Democratic protesters.

“He has essentially done nothing and when he realized he wasn’t going to win, he changed sides and joined the Democrats,” she said.

The governor, whose job approval rating has remained around 70 percent in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1, described his tenure as one of common sense solutions that saw record funding for education and restoring the Chesapeake Bay, and dramatic improvement to the state’s economy after the recession ended. He concluded that he has “changed Maryland for the better,” echoing his Change Maryland campaign slogan.

He said he has delivered $1.2 billion in tax, toll and fee relief. That figure includes $240 million the Supreme Court ordered returned to taxpayers because it was collected in error.

Hogan reminded supporters that he oversaw the state’s response to the 2015 Baltimore riots and that he was treated successfully for cancer during his first year in office.

“Just think about this,” Hogan said, “if we can make all this progress while dealing with riots and battling cancer, just imagine what we’re going to get done over the next four years?”

Hogan also derided the field of nine Democrats on the ballot hoping to replace him. The governor described their vision for Maryland as one that would take the state backwards.

"I don’t know much about these nine candidates running for governor,” he said. “But I do know one thing: that is that every single one of them wants to take us in a completely different direction, and that’s really what this election is all about. Do we want to take Maryland backwards? And return to the failed policies of the past?"

The crowded Democratic field largely shares the same platform, which includes a higher minimum wage, universal pre-kindergarten, free community college, legalized recreational marijuana and a greater emphasis on helping people when they return from jail.

While the Democrats have been struggling to distinguish themselves and amass donations, Hogan has put away $9 million for his re-election bid and launched a $1.3 million television blitz to remind voters of his record before the November general election.

The crowd of Hogan supporters, which included most of the state’s prominent elected Republicans and activists, interrupted his speech three times to chant: “Four more years!”

Evan Young, a 29-year-old from Silver Spring who works in finance, said that he views Hogan as a model for Republicans across the country to follow.

“He’s been an extremely refreshing viewpoint for Maryland,” said Young, national committeeman for the Maryland Young Republicans. “At a time when everything’s so polarized and the left can’t talk to the right and people who have different viewpoints are treated as enemies, Governor Hogan has proven at the state level that people can work together.”

As the governor took the stage and began to speak, a man in the crowd shouted: “We love you man!”

Hogan smiled, and said, “We love you right back.”



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