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Hogan and Rawlings-Blake: The odd couple

As odd couples go, Gov.-elect Larry Hogan and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake are pretty odd. He's the small-government, pro-business Republican who's looking to shake up Annapolis. She's the big city Democratic mayor who endorsed his opponent. Yet their relationship started off so well — a dinner at Johnny's in Roland Park, and then some kind words from the mayor about the governor-elect not being "rabidly partisan" and her hope that the Democratic legislature would act the same way. The governor-elect returned the compliment, with a spokeswoman calling the meeting "very productive" and averring that Baltimore's success is critically important to the state's economic future.

Sad to say, the honeymoon appears not to have lasted long enough to see Mr. Hogan actually inaugurated. Last week, he reiterated his view that Baltimore should serve as the "economic engine of the state" but then committed what is an unpardonable sin in the mayor's book, which is to suggest that it did not immediately and inexorably embark on the path to do so the moment she was sworn in. "What has been happening — taxing and spending and pouring millions into the city — has not helped," he said. "It has really hurt. ... There's no businesses, there's no jobs. The city's declining rather than improving. We're going to try to turn that around. ... We're basically going to have to find a way to incentivize people to move into Baltimore City."

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The mayor shot back with an op-ed in The Sun on Tuesday, retorting that "today, we are seeing the most growth we have in decades, which signals progress, not decline." She cited recent population and job growth and the flowering of local companies like Under Armour and Millennial Media and said "the notion of cutting your way to prosperity has been tried and failed at every level of government."

Some of this is just political noise. Mr. Hogan at times appears not totally accustomed to the role of speaking as a state-wide leader rather than just a Republican activist — witness, for example, his remark that the events in Ferguson, Mo., were "an issue that has enraged some folks on the other side of the aisle" that "really doesn't impact Maryland." And Ms. Rawlings-Blake's response to the governor-elect was not so much standing up for her city as for her administration — her explanation of Baltimore's resurgence omits mention of anything that happened before she was mayor.

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But there are also real issues at stake. Will Mr. Hogan continue plans for the Red Line or the State Center redevelopment? Will he restrict the historic tax credits that have helped finance so much redevelopment in the city? Will he seek to reduce the state's contribution to a plan that will finance $1 billion in city school upgrades, or will he monkey with the agreement that provide extra state funds for school operations — a major legislative legacy of the mayor's father, the late Del. Howard "Pete" Rawlings?

There are fiscal realities at work here and political ones. Mr. Hogan faces budget troubles, and given that Baltimore gets a disproportionate share of state aid because of its high level of poverty, any cuts he makes will affect it deeply. Mr. Hogan also must feel pressure to deliver for the rural parts of the state that voted heavily for him in November; according to the Cumberland Times-News, he was in Western Maryland Sunday to thank voters and promise "You will have a friend in Annapolis. There will be an open door, a sympathetic ear and advocate for you."

But there are some other political and policy realities that both the mayor and governor-elect ought to consider. Mr. Hogan got nearly as many votes in Baltimore City last year (30,845) as Ms. Rawlings-Blake got in the 2011 Democratic primary that served as her de facto election (38,829). And Mr. Hogan got more votes in Baltimore City than he did in Allegany and Garrett counties combined. Indeed, the city was more electorally significant to him than 14 of the 19 counties he actually won. Ms. Rawlings-Blake shouldn't blow off Mr. Hogan, and he shouldn't blow off the city.

Moreover, there's a lot more potential concordance on policy matters between Baltimore and the Hogan administration than may meet the eye. Ms. Rawlings-Blake came into office promising tough fiscal medicine to reduce government spending, shrink the size of the municipal workforce and privatize some services while at the same time reducing taxes. That is more or less precisely what Mr. Hogan has said he wants to do on the state level. Baltimoreans have also shown a willingness to stomach pension reforms despite vehement objections of public sector unions, and the city has been more eager to embrace market-oriented education reforms like charter schools and teacher performance pay than any other jurisdiction in the state.

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As with the original odd couple in the Neil Simon play of the same name, Ms. Rawlings-Blake and Mr. Hogan are bound to bicker, but they also may have more in common — and more to gain from one another — than they might like to admit. We don't expect Mr. Hogan to have the same commitment to Baltimore as the former mayor he is replacing in office, nor do we expect Ms. Rawlings-Blake to be as close to Mr. Hogan as she was to Gov. Martin O'Malley, whose political rise she helped launch by convincing her father to endorse him in 1999. We don't expect that Baltimore (or any other jurisdiction) will be held harmless in whatever fiscal retrenchment Mr. Hogan has in store, and we don't expect Ms. Rawlings-Blake to like it. But we do hope both will find they have more to gain by being partners than by being enemies.

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