Gov. Larry Hogan took a swipe Thursday at outgoing Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, saying the mayor had not properly thanked him for "saving the city" during rioting and unrest last spring.
In his most detailed retelling to date of the events that followed Freddie Gray's death from injuries suffered in police custody, Hogan portrayed himself as a decisive leader for sending in the National Guard, saying rioters "all went scurrying home" at his show of force.
During remarks at the center-right American Action Forum in Washington, the Republican governor said he first called Rawlings-Blake last April offering help after an aide showed him footage of a burning police car.
He called again three hours later with two options: He would sign an executive order sending in the National Guard at her request, or he would sign one sending it in at his.
"I think it's better for you and better for me if we go with the first one," Hogan recalled telling the mayor. "But either way, we're ... taking over."
Hogan said Rawlings-Blake told him she needed more time, and when he refused, she asked for 15 minutes to think over her options.
"She called me back, and she said, 'Since you're holding a gun to my head, and since you're going to do it anyway, I guess I'll ask you to come in,'" Hogan said. "And then we came in, saved the city, and we never got a thank-you.
"All she did from that day until this day is criticize us and say we haven't done anything to help Baltimore City. It's very unfortunate. We're going to have a new mayor, though. Her career is over."
Rawlings-Blake did not seek re-election this year. State Sen. Catherine E. Pugh won the Democratic primary for mayor Tuesday, tantamount to a general election win in heavily Democratic Baltimore.
A spokesman for Rawlings-Blake declined to comment on Hogan's version of events.
"The mayor prefers to focus on governing the city rather than obsessing on perceived past slights or differences of opinion," Rawlings-Blake spokesman Howard Libit said in an email.
The tone of Hogan's comments stands in contrast to interviews he gave a year ago about how he and the mayor worked together. Then, he dismissed questions about friction between the two.
"Sometimes we agreed, and sometimes we didn't," Hogan said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun two weeks after the unrest. "But I think we worked together pretty well, and the result was pretty good. ... People kept trying to create more of a controversy, and I just wouldn't take the bait. I didn't want to criticize her, and I didn't think she deserved some of the criticism."
On Thursday, he volunteered criticism.
"I think there was a lot of political stuff going on in the city," Hogan said, telling the crowd he believed the mayor was on the phone with the White House and the Democratic National Committee discussing the political ramifications of the response to the riot.
Hogan said President Barack Obama called him in the hours between the eruption of violence and Hogan's sending in the Guard.
The governor, the second Republican elected for Maryland's top office in nearly a half-century, said his friend and political mentor Chris Christie, New Jersey's Republican governor, called him seconds after Hogan's nationally televised news conference concluded.
"He called my cellphone as I'm still on the stage," Hogan said, saying that Christie told him that this crisis would be Hogan's "defining moment" and suggested that he spend the next few days being as visible and supportive as possible on the streets of Baltimore. The governor said he told Christie that was already his plan.
"I hugged people who were crying and digging out the mess," Hogan said. "It was just instinct."
Hogan said that when he first called the mayor, she assured him that everything was under control. He recalled telling her that "it doesn't look like everything's under control. It looks like the city's on fire."
He said that the National Guard's "overwhelming presence had a chilling effect on the rioters. They all went scurrying home and didn't want to cause any more violence because we had an overwhelming display of force."