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Hogan promises atmosphere of 'trust and cooperation'

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan pledged bipartisanship and offered a conciliatory tone during his snowy inauguration Wednesday, promising "to create an environment of trust and cooperation, where the best ideas rise to the top based on upon their merit."

"Too often, we see wedge politics and petty rhetoric used to belittle adversaries and inflame partisan divisions," Hogan said. "It is only when the partisan shouting stops that we can hear each other's voices and concerns."

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Hogan called for tolerance of mutual respect, and said he would be guided ahead by four principles: fiscal responsibility, economic growth, reform and fairness.

He offered no policy specifics on how he would achieve his goals, instead focusing remarks on the spirit of cooperation and respect he said he wants to create in the capital, where Democrats hold large majorities in both chambers of the legislature. Hogan has said he will lay out his budget plans at a news conference Thursday.

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His calls to bridge the state's political divide were tempered by a few partisan lines that drew rousing applause from the crowd of more than 1,600 watching him on the steps of the State House in Annapolis.

Hogan, a businessman, promised to "get the state government off our backs and out of our pockets." And he declared that "starting today, let me say loudly and clearly, Maryland is open for business."

Hogan, 58, is just the second Republican in over four decades to assume Maryland's highest office. He succeeds Democrat Martin O'Malley, who was term-limited.

As he stepped to the podium amid a heavy flutter of snowflakes, Hogan quipped, "They said it would be a cold day in hell before we elected a Republican governor."

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Mary Ellen Barbera, chief judge of the Court of Appeals, administered the oath of office – becoming the first woman in Maryland's history to do so.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie introduced Hogan, saying he likes him because he sticks to his principles. "He's blunt and he's direct, and he says what he believes."

Christie, who as an early Hogan backer was instrumental in helping raise cash through the Republican Governors Association, echoed Hogan's call for bipartisanship. "I don't believe that compromise and consensus are dirty words.

Boyd Rutherford, who like Hogan served in the cabinet of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., was sworn in as lieutenant governor. Rutherford, a 57-year-old attorney, struck the same tone, concluding his speech by saying, "far more unites us than divides us."

Hogan, who had not previously held elected office, officially became Maryland's 62nd governor when he took the oath required in the state Constitution in the Maryland Senate chamber. The ceremony was repeated outside the State House before the much audience afterward.

Hogan began his remarks by invoking the history of his father, former congressman Lawrence Hogan Sr., who bucked the Republican Party and was among the first to call for President Richard Nixon's impeachment. His father, Hogan said, put aside party politics to act as he believed was right.

The younger Hogan choked up as he said, "He taught me more about integrity in one day than most men learn in a lifetime, and I am proud to be his son."

Hogan rode a wave of voter discontent with the O'Malley administration's tax and spending policies to an upset victory over Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown.

In his speech, Hogan promised to reinvigorate Maryland, run the government more efficiently, and "transform Maryland into a place where businesses can flourish and create more jobs and more opportunities for our citizens." He called for fairness and balance for "Maryland's hard-working and beleaguered taxpayers."

As Hogan finished his speech, retiree Vernon Gauss from Harford County shouted above the applause, "Let the work begin!"

While Hogan has pledged not to attempt to roll back Maryland's relatively liberal social policies, he has promised fundamental changes in the state's fiscal approach, including spending reductions and tax cuts. Through his campaign, he contended a dramatic shift was needed to improve Maryland's business climate and to halt what he said was an exodus of companies and residents from the state.

O'Malley and Brown sat on the stage with other dignitaries, including Ehrlich. When O'Malley took over from Ehrlich, Ehrlich preferred to sit instead in the audience.

"He wouldn't even sit on the stage," O'Malley's wife Judge Catherine Curran O'Malley said Wednesday.

Hogan will host an inaugural gala Wednesday night at the Baltimore Convention Center. He also plans a more informal, $25-a-ticket "People's Celebration" Saturday at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge.

Hogan began his inaugural day at 8 a.m. with a prayer service at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Annapolis.

He glad-handed his way up the aisle, hugging and smiling at well-wishers until he reached Rutherford in the front row.

Hogan grasped Boyd's hand, laid another on his shoulder and asked, "You ready for this, L.G.?"

Speakers at the prayer service to honor him struck a bipartisan tone, and called for tolerance.

"If you ever needed the lord before, you sure do need him now," preached the Rev. Anthony C. Muse, a Democratic state senator from Prince George's County. "I know us, and as the saying goes, we can be a trip. Your patience will be tested by the personalities of many."

The multi-denominational service featured remarks from Catholic Archbishop William Lori, as well as the Rev. Henry Ferry, who officiated at Hogan's wedding.

The Rev. Errol Gilliard, Sr., of Greater Harvest Church, recalled a time Hogan visited his Baltimore parish, and told the congregation he was there not for a political message, but for prayers.

Gilliard remembered telling Hogan last year, "You're in an election. You want votes. Ask for voters. This is not the time to ask for prayers. The time for prayers will come."

"Now," Gilliard said, "is the time for prayers."

Hogan told reporters afterward that he was "feeling blessed."

"I'm going to try to take a few deep breaths and try to enjoy the moment," he said.

Although he didn't take office until Wednesday, Hogan spent the previous night settling into the governor's mansion.

"It's going to take some getting used to," Hogan told reporters. "It's like living in a museum, really."

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