Change came to Annapolis today with the inauguration of Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. as Maryland's 62nd governor, just the third Republican to hold that post in the last half-century. But if his inaugural address and festivities are any indication, that change may be subtler than many would expect.
The sight of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on the steps of the Maryland State House introducing the new governor must have been something of a shock to the state's partisan Democrats, and in particular Gov. Martin O'Malley, who delighted in sparring with his Republican counterpart from the Garden State. But for all of Mr. Christie's assurances that he sees a kindred spirit in Mr. Hogan, the new governor struck a remarkably moderate pose. Rather than heralding a world turned upside down, Governor Hogan was promising pursuit of the same goals as his predecessor but from a different perspective. Granted, there was no Irish poetry and just one Kennedy reference (John, not Robert), but otherwise most of what Mr. Hogan had to say would not have seemed out of place in the speech Mr. O'Malley gave eight years ago when he himself promised change from the administration of Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
There was really only one bit of Republican red meat in Mr. Hogan's speech, a promise to "get the state government off our backs, and out of our pockets, so that we can grow the private sector, put people back to work, and turn our economy around." It got a big reaction from the crowd, but that kind of rhetoric, which was the staple of Mr. Hogan's electoral campaign, mostly gave way in his inaugural address to a loftier tone.
Mr. Hogan preached the Maryland tradition of inclusiveness and tolerance. Standing with his wife, Yumi, who is Korean, and their daughters, along with the family of Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, who are African-American, he offered up a portrait of modern Maryland in all its diversity. It's hard to imagine him ever saying multiculturalism is "bunk" and "crap," as Mr. Ehrlich once did. The governor went on to posit that the state's instinct toward tolerance should extend to those with different political views. It's easy to dismiss that as something a Republican taking over a state with a heavy Democratic majority has to say, but it cuts both ways. During Mr. Ehrlich's term, we saw what happens when neither side aspires to that ideal. So far, at least, there's reason to hope we might find out what happens when both sides do. In the first week of this year's General Assembly session, the Democratic leaders in Annapolis have gone out of their way to be welcoming to the new governor, and he has returned the sentiment.
Mr. Hogan didn't offer up the kind of in-your-face victory celebration he might have, given the odds he overcame to get here. Instead, he came across as someone with a deep love and respect for Maryland's history and institutions whose formative political lesson came from his father's willingness, as a Republican member of Congress, to vote for all articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon even though it was to his political disadvantage to do so. When the younger Mr. Hogan says he wants to put aside politics to do what's right for the state, his words carry some authority.
Of course, what's right for the state is a matter of interpretation, and it likely won't take long for differences of opinion to emerge. Tomorrow the governor has promised to unveil his economic plans for the state, including some details of the budget he is required to formally submit by Friday. Given the state's projected budget hole and Mr. Hogan's promise to cut taxes, he is bound to have made some hard decisions, and that inevitably will breed conflict.
But the people of Maryland voted Mr. Hogan into office for a reason, and even the most partisan of Democrats in Annapolis know it. The key to his success is not to avoid conflict — no governor of either party can do that — but to resolve it according to the "middle temperament" he praised in his inaugural address. With snow falling around him, Mr. Hogan joked that most people thought it would be a cold day in hell before a Republican was inaugurated governor. But if the tone he set in his inaugural address is an indication of the way he will lead, he may not need any meteorological intervention to find himself in the same place four years from now.