At the Maryland Association of Counties conference this week, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan kicked off his farewell tour, seeking to cement his legacy as he winds down his time in office, preaching on the power of state and local partnerships to get things done.
As of Thursday morning, Hogan noted that he had “153-and-a-half” days left in office. “Not that I’m counting,” he joked.
The governor delivered a keynote speech that replayed his greatest hits — describing efforts to expand broadband access, grow the economy, create jobs, offer tax relief and improve infrastructure, including Route 90, which he cited as ”the gateway to Ocean City” — where the conference is being held.
“And on all of these things — and more — together, we have taken care of business,” Hogan said.
The governor also touted his support of law enforcement, saying that his administration “successfully disrupted or dismantled gangs at record levels,” and crediting collaboration among federal, state and local police agencies.
Thursday afternoon, Hogan strolled the boardwalk with members of the Maryland Army National Guard, some of whom have been on active duty since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Stopping at a recruitment tent planted in the hot sand, Hogan joked with soldiers and pretended to do pullups.
”I would sign up, but I don’t think they’d take me,” the governor said to a beachgoer who stopped for a picture.
Hogan was elected to two four-year terms. Term limits barred him from running again; he will leave office in mid-January.
He has said he’s trying to figure out what his role is in the future, all while traveling the country and saying the Republican Party needs to move past President Donald Trump’s 2020 loss. For example, he’s visited the key presidential nominating states of New Hampshire and Iowa, and said at the Iowa State Fair last week that it’s important for the party to “have multiple voices,” according to the Des Moines Register.
When asked directly about whether he’ll seek the GOP nomination, however, Hogan has said he’s focusing on finishing his term as governor. He didn’t bring up the subject in his remarks Thursday, nor at his reception the night before.
Hogan hosted a party Wednesday at the Seacrets nightclub in Ocean City, on first night of the counties’ association conference. He came into the party on a standing ovation, and everywhere he went, there was a glow of light as partyers’ cameras flashed.
Constituents, members of Hogan’s cabinet, Republican leadership in the General Assembly and Democratic county executives — “more than 1,500″ people in Hogan’s estimate — gathered to celebrate his eight years in office. Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, a Democrat, interrupted a picture-taking session to shake the governor’s hand.
Seacrets owner Leighton Moore introduced Hogan as “the best governor in the history of the state of Maryland.” Hogan thanked party attendees standing in the sand for their “tremendous partnership over the past eight years.”
“I can tell you we’ve been through a lot of struggles together, but through good times and bad times there has not been a single day — good or bad — that I have not been grateful for the honor that you have given me to serve as your governor for the past eight years,” Hogan said to cheers.
Another ovation followed Thursday as Hogan took the stage at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center’s performing arts center.
As she introduced Hogan, Republican Talbot County Councilmember Laura Everngam-Price, the 2022 president of the Maryland Association of Counties, called his appearance “bittersweet.”
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“You’re going to be a very tough act to follow, Governor Hogan,” Everngam-Price said.
In his speech, Hogan looked back to his first campaign and all that followed.
“Eight years ago, when I was running for governor, I said that the only way to govern this state was with a strong partnership between the state government and our local leaders working together, and we have spent the past eight years doing exactly that and taking care of business,” Hogan said.
County elected leaders and county government employees gather annually for the conference, which organizers say has about 3,000 participants. The four days include workshops on topics such as 911 systems, digital equity, alternative energy, law enforcement liability and the “future of health care,” as well as receptions and a healthy dose of lobbying and politicking.
Every four years, the event also includes a focus on the state’s elections, particularly the fall general election contest for the statewide seats of governor, attorney general and comptroller. The nominees for those offices were invited to participate Saturday in a forum to close out the conference. Republican gubernatorial nominee Dan Cox, Democratic attorney general nominee Anthony Brown, Democratic comptroller nominee Brooke Lierman and Republican comptroller nominee Barry Glassman are scheduled to take part.
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore and Republican attorney general nominee Michael Peroutka won’t be there due to scheduling conflicts, though Moore was scheduled to attend other parts of the conference.
Cox, elected four years ago to represent parts of Frederick and Carroll counties in the legislature, won the GOP nomination for governor to face Moore of Baltimore. Hogan has said he will not vote for Cox, who is endorsed by Trump.