As the federal government in Washington sinks into ever-deeper dysfunction and the public casts about for alternatives, some so-called “Never Trump” Republicans are urging Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to run in a 2020 primary against his party’s president.
The governor, 62, has largely demurred, without closing the door completely to the possibility. But the prospect of his unlikely candidacy has nevertheless prompted intense speculation.
Hogan was raised in Prince George's County. He attended Catholic high schools and earned a bachelor’s degree in government from Florida State University.
Like father, like son
The son of three-term congressman Lawrence J. Hogan Sr., Hogan was drawn to politics at an early age and worked in his father's campaigns.
He has spoken with pride about how his father risked his political future as the only Republican on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee to support all articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon.
Maryland’s blended first family got its start when a 40-something bachelor went to an art show in Columbia in 2001. By Hogan's account, he decided right away he was more interested in the South Korean-born artist than in the paintings.
After a three-year courtship, Hogan married the former Yumi Kim and gained three adult daughters who now consider him their dad.
Growing a business
Hogan started dabbling in real estate with his mom, then founded his business in 1985. The Annapolis-based Hogan Cos. have completed more than $2 billion in deals, largely in suburban areas.
As governor, Hogan did not divest from the firm’s real estate holdings, but put them into a trust managed by former top aides — a move approved by the state’s ethics commission.
Profits from the firm have allowed Hogan to accrue $2.4 million during his first three years in office, according to his tax returns.
In the early 1980s, Hogan was a leader of a bipartisan campaign to reform Prince George's government, effectively ending the rule of a Democratic Party organization that had long controlled county affairs.
Hogan made unsuccessful bids for Congress in 1981 and 1992.
When his friend, Robert Ehrlich, won election in 2002 as Maryland's first Republican governor in more than 30 years, Hogan took the post of appointments secretary.
Shortly after the 2010 election, Hogan set up Change Maryland and its website, which became a rallying point for opposition to Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's economic policies.
The conservative advocacy group morphed into the Hogan for Governor campaign.
Hogan marketed himself as a Republican who could find common ground with Democrats and independents. He ran almost exclusively on fiscal issues, calling for a broad rollback of tax increases passed under O'Malley. On social issues, he warned conservatives that he wouldn’t fight futile battles on matters Marylanders had already settled.
In June 2015, Hogan announced that he’d been diagnosed with a "very advanced and very aggressive" cancer that had spread throughout his body: non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
After aggressive chemotherapy treatment, he announced in November 2015 that he was “100 percent cancer-free.”
On the issues
Often, public sentiment in Maryland helps push the governor to the left. But sometimes, Hogan moves to the right. He notably relies on polling to help guide his policies and bolster some decisions.
However, the governor has also taken stances on issues that have angered Democrats. He canceled a $2.9 billion Red Line project across Baltimore, dismissing it as a boondoggle. And he joined other mostly GOP governors in 2015 in asking the federal government to bar Syrian refugees from their states until better vetting procedures were established.
Hogan on Trump
Hogan has been careful in his dealings with the Trump administration, which is deeply unpopular among many Maryland Democrats.
The governor has spoken out against some of the president’s actions (such as separating the children of immigrant families from their parents) without alienating an administration that Maryland needs to work with.
He also called for a delay in the confirmation process for Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.
“I was the first Republican governor to say I wasn’t going to support or endorse President Trump,” Hogan says.
Hogan has said he’s taken no steps to run for higher office. He’s formed no exploratory committee. He has no Super Political Action Committee support. He has no national or international policy advisers and no campaign chairs in other states — all steps candidates take if they are gearing up for a campaign.
Moreover, Hogan has only $376,000 left in his Maryland campaign account — money that can’t be transferred to a federal race. His federal campaign account, last used when he ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1992, holds just $2,000.
In an interview with CNN that aired Friday, Hogan said he would need to see a possible path to victory to run.
“I wouldn’t be on some fool’s errand just to run some suicide mission,” he said. “I would only run if I thought that I could actually win.”