Gov. Larry Hogan surprised nobody Tuesday by formally endorsing Del. Kathy Szeliga, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, as both skipped the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Hogan and Szeliga, who represents Baltimore and Harford counties, held a news conference outside McGarvey's restaurant in Annapolis after holding a private meeting there with Armed Forces veterans.
The governor has been openly supportive of Szeliga since she won the April 26 Republican primary, but Tuesday's gathering was their first joint political event since then. She faces Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen in the November election.
Hogan praised Szeliga as a tough lawmaker, a fighter and a businesswoman.
"With your help, I believe she can win this race, I believe she should win this race and I believe she will win the race," Hogan said.
Szeliga is rated as a long shot against Van Hollen, a veteran campaigner in a strongly Democratic state. It is also a presidential election year, a factor that tends to favor Democrats.
Hogan's endorsement came as Republicans were gathering in Cleveland to nominate Donald Trump for president. The governor has shunned Trump and said he doesn't plan to vote for him. Szeliga supports the party standard-bearer.
Both officials kept their distance from Trump Tuesday. Hogan brushed off questions about the convention's opening day Monday, saying he hadn't watched it. Szeliga distanced herself from some of the harsher rhetoric from the convention podium, including calls to send Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to prison.
Hogan, who on Monday called further prosecutions in the Freddie Gray case "a waste of time in money" but said the decision should be left to the courts, declined Tuesday to join in criticism at the convention of Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby for bringing the charges against six officers.
"It shouldn't be politicized and for the most part it hasn't been," he said. A speaker at the convention, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, described the prosecutions as malicious.
Hogan and Szeliga said they had good reasons to stay in Maryland rather to go to Cleveland this week.
"Right here in Maryland I have plenty of voters to meet with," Szeliga said. "I need a clone. I would like to be everywhere all the time."
Hogan said he's not worried that his absence in Cleveland would lead to bad feelings.
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"I think the people in Maryland are pretty satisfied with the job we're doing," he said.
Aides to Hogan said the meeting with veterans, including members of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, concentrated on such issues as mental health, drug treatment, homelessness and problems in dealing with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.
Randall Nash, a Columbia resident and member of the VFW Post in Ellicott City, said he was "totally impressed" with Szeliga and Hogan, whom he called "one of the best governors ever."
Nash said he doesn't think much of Van Hollen.
"I don't think he has much to offer except he's a Democrat,' he said.
But as Hogan was meeting with Szeliga, Van Hollen announced financial numbers that show why he is regarded as a formidable foe.
Van Hollen said he had raised $1.8 million for his campaign in the second quarter and has $566,000 on hand. That compares with the $582,000 Szeliga raised, with $254,000 on hand.