The day after becoming just the second Republican to be re-elected governor in Maryland history, Larry Hogan pledged to continue governing the blue state as a centrist while he laid out some of his second-term agenda.
Speaking to the news media, Hogan said he planned to push for tax cuts, increased accountability in local school systems and a non-partisan commission to redistrict Maryland after the 2020 Census
“I didn’t govern as a Republican,” Hogan said of his first term. “I was a governor for all the people. I was right down the middle.”
He said the hundreds of thousands of Democratic voters who crossed party lines to give him a second term should not expect any surprises in the next four years.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Hogan said. “It seems to be working. People seem to be happy with what we’re doing. I can’t imagine why we’d want to change.”
“Unfortunately, some folks lost on my side of the aisle. I think it was a tough night,” Hogan said. “We had President Trump say the election should be about him even though he’s not on the ballot. In Maryland that’s exactly what happened. It was a repudiation of the president, who lost this state by 30 points.”
Hogan won 21 of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions. Statewide, he defeated Democrat Ben Jealous by double digits, just as he had led in independent public opinion polls for a year.
During his first term in office, Hogan appropriated a litany of Democratic initiatives, such as a fracking ban, parental leave for state employees and a “lockbox” for casino revenues to go to public schools.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch said Democrats will continue to pursue their priorities and won’t hesitate to use their enhanced numbers to achieve their goals. Democrats gained seats in the General Assembly Tuesday.
“We have demonstrated for four years we weren’t afraid to use that supermajority,” he said.
Among them, he said, are a higher minimum wage, a boost in education spending, more affordable college tuition, better pay for state workers and affordable housing.
Busch, 71, suggested Hogan shouldn’t have any problem with those priorities.
“The governor ran as a moderate — almost a Democrat if you will,” he said.
The speaker said the big issue of the next term will be finding a way to fund the expected recommendations of a commission on public school financing — an amount that could run into the billions.
Busch said that part of the solution could be to legalize and tax the sale of marijuana for recreational use. He said the legislature could leave that decision to the voters and put the question on the a lot either 2020 or 2022.
The speaker said he wouldn’t be surprised if Hogan eventually adopted the idea as his own.
In his typically barbed fashion, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller also vowed to continue working with Hogan.
“Since he’s going to be a lame duck, you know, and the speaker and I both have some age on us, we’re certainly going to reach across the aisle and work with him for the betterment of the people of the state of Maryland,” Miller said.
The 75-year-old Democrat bristled at a question posed by a female television reporter suggesting he expected Hogan to do most of the reaching.
“Stop it, stop it, lady,” he said. “You don’t know me. I’ve done this my whole life.”
Miller then went on to recount his decades-long career in Annapolis and describe the hard work his staff has done to pass the governor's bills.
Hogan has maintained sky-high approval ratings for most of his tenure — making him one of the most popular governors in the country. After an upset victory over Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in 2014, Hogan bonded with voters during his first year in office, especially during the riot in Baltimore and his victory over cancer.
He opposed the Trump administration at some key turns, including pulling back National Guard troops from the Mexican border while the federal government was separating the children of immigrants from their parents.
While Trump posted congratulations to successful Republican candidates in other states on Twitter, he did not reach out to Hogan.
“My feelings aren’t hurt,” Hogan said to laughter when a reporter asked about the lack of a call from Trump. “I wasn’t really expecting a call.”
Hogan said he’d given no thought “whatsoever” to a political career beyond governor, but said he hoped to serve as a model to Republicans nationwide.
“There’s no question that the Republican Party has to look at itself not just in Maryland but nationally,” Hogan said. “I think I’ll be a part of that discussion about how we move forward.”
For a second term, Hogan said he expected there would be some changes in his cabinet, though he didn’t provide any specifics.
“It’s going to be more of the same,” Hogan said of a second term. “We’re going to work on more accountability for our school systems, continue to work environmental issues and the Bay. We’re going to try to get some tax cuts. There’s going to be no change in direction. The people in Maryland voted overwhelmingly to keep moving in the same direction and that’s exactly what they’re going to get.”
Hogan also said he planned to push for a non-partisan redistricting committee to take up the mission of redrawing the state’s legislative and congressional districts. As governor, Hogan will oversee the state’s redistricting process after the 2020 census, although his plan will need the approval of the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.
“I think maybe the legislature, knowing I’m going to be the one drawing the districts, might be more open to taking it away from me and giving it to a nonpartisan commission,” Hogan said. “I think maybe they thought somebody else would be drawing the districts.”
Asked what more could be done in his second term to combat violent crime in Baltimore, Hogan said he's gained approval for a federal "strike force" to begin operating in the city.
"We need more leadership in the city from the mayor," Hogan said. "We need a police commissioner that stays there more than a few months.”
In response, Pugh said she recently met with the governor and discussed the city’s policing strategies with him.
“We’ve had a good working relationship,” Pugh said of Hogan. “They used me in their ads. I didn’t become Senate Majority Leader without knowing how to work across the aisle. I look forward to working with him for the next four years.”