Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will travel to Annapolis to serve as the featured speaker at Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s inauguration Wednesday — a move that will put two favorites of anti-Trump Republicans on stage together.
As so-called “Never Trump” Republicans search for a candidate to challenge the president in 2020, some have been urging Hogan to run. The governor has largely demurred, saying he’s focused on running the state, while not definitively ruling it out.
But the announcement of Bush — the son and brother of presidents who has battled Trump publicly — as a featured speaker underscored the belief among political observers that Hogan is becoming a rising figure in the wing of party that does not embrace the president.
“It’s a statement of what kind of conservative Larry Hogan sees himself as,” said David Lublin, a government professor at American University. “It’s certainly a counterpoint to Trump. Trump’s entire presidency is one long repudiation of most of what the Bushes stood for.”
In an interview with The Baltimore Sun last year, Hogan said he believed he could help play a role in charting a different direction for the party, but said that likely would not be a run for the presidency.
“Running for office is not necessarily in the cards for me, but if I can provide some input for how we can get the Republican Party back on track and back to its roots, that could be a public service I could do,” Hogan said. “Most people would say my brand of politics and [moderate Massachusetts Gov.] Charlie Baker’s politics are what’s desperately needed. I think most people want some kind of moderation.”
In December, Hogan spoke at a conference held by the Niskanen Center, a Washington think tank, that featured several anti-Trump Republicans. Over the weekend, the former editor-in-chief of the conservative Weekly Standard suggested Hogan’s name, among others, as a potential Republican challenger to Trump in 2020.
“There’s political space now for someone who is not a Trumper or a Democrat,” Lublin said. “There seems to be room for what the Republican Party used to be.”
But Lublin said he believed a Hogan challenge to Trump would fail badly.
“Trump really does seem to have this iron-clad grip on the Republican party,” he said.
Donald F. Norris, professor emeritus of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, agreed.
“That really is a fool’s errand,” he said. “I don’t think they’re going to save the Republican Party.”
Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said the governor invited Bush to speak because he has tremendous respect for him and his family.
“The governor is honored to have Governor Bush speak and is proud to call him a friend,” Chasse said. “He believes his family represents the best in public service. As a fellow governor, he believes they see eye-to-eye on the effectiveness of governors in finding bipartisan solutions and getting things done.”
Bush and Hogan have known each other for years.
Their dads served together in the U.S. House of Representatives. Hogan’s father, Lawrence Hogan, served in Congress from 1969 to 1975, representing Maryland’s 5th District, while George H.W. Bush represented Texas’ 7th District from 1967 to 1971.
When Hogan became governor four years ago, Bush gave him a digital clock counting down to the end of his first term. (Bush kept a similar clock as governor.)
In 2016, Hogan did a video presentation for a course Bush was teaching at Texas A&M University.
“It’s a symbolic act,” Norris said of having Bush speak. “But symbolic acts are important. One could see this as saying to Trump, ‘You know there’s another Republican Party out there, and I and other people are in it and you’re not.’ ”
Hogan’s festivities start at 9 a.m. on the north lawn of the State House in Annapolis. Hogan — just the second Republican governor re-elected in Maryland history — and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford will be sworn in at noon.
Former Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, a Democrat, will introduce the governor. Rutherford will be introduced by his daughters, Kristen Rutherford and Lauren Rutherford.
Both men will be sworn in by Mary Ellen Barbera, the chief judge of Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.
The governor will hold a public reception at the State House at 1:30 p.m, according to his office.
The Maryland National Guard’s Army Band, the Cardinal Shehan School Choir from Baltimore, the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts Chamber Choir from Hagerstown, the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Chamber Choir and the Naval Academy Glee Club are among the groups performing at the inauguration.
All of the events in Annapolis are free.
The governor will celebrate at 8 p.m. with a $150-a-ticket gala at MGM National Harbor casino in Prince George’s County.
Hogan, a Prince George’s native, held his first inaugural gala in 2015 in Baltimore.
In a second term, Hogan has said he plans to push for tax cuts and increased accountability in local school systems and use a nonpartisan commission to redistrict Maryland after the 2020 census.