Larry Hogan, chairman of the conservative activist group Change Maryland, says he'll seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2014.
In an interview Friday, Hogan said that while he will hold off a formal announcement until January, there's no doubt he will join three other contenders in the June 24 GOP primary.
"I really have made up my mind," said Hogan, a former appointments secretary to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
Hogan, 57, came close to a full-blown announcement Friday night in a speech to his group in an Annapolis hotel that is also hosting a Republican state convention this weekend. But in his prepared remarks, he continued to play coy, pointing to his role as chief executive of the Hogan Cos. real estate group.
"I promised my employees and colleagues that I would stay at the helm and work hard with them to make sure that we have a strong finish to the calendar year," he said. "So, there won't be any formal announcement or official launch of a campaign until January."
However, in the interview, Hogan said he plans to register a campaign finance committee and begin hiring a campaign staff in January — about the same time he officially enters the race.
"We're not exactly starting from scratch, but we will shift into another gear," he said.
He will join a field that includes Harford County Executive David R. Craig, Del. Ron George of Anne Arundel County and Charles County business executive Charles Lollar. The filing deadline is Feb. 25.
Hogan expressed confidence that he could mount a serious challenge in the race, pointing to the growth of Change Maryland over the last 21/2 years. The group now claims to be more than 65,000 strong based on the number of people who have "liked" it on Facebook.
The son of a congressman, Hogan came close to running for governor in 2010, when Ehrlich waited until relatively late to get into the race against Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley. When his former boss jumped in, Hogan got out, and Ehrlich went on to be defeated by O'Malley by a wide margin.
Since 2010, Hogan has concentrated on building an organization devoted to reversing the direction in which O'Malley has taken the state – especially on fiscal policy.
"Our state is way off track and heading in the wrong direction," Hogan said in remarks he released in advance. "Forty consecutive tax hikes have taken an additional $9.5 billion dollars out of our economy."
Hogan gave his speech before an enthusiastic crowd that over-packed a ballroom with a capacity of more than 700. Some Republican veterans said it was the liveliest party the Maryland GOP has seen since Ehrlich's inauguration a decade.
"I've never seen anything like the turnout Hogan had tonight," said former Baltimore County Republican Del. Don Murphy, a veteran of about 40 state party conventions.
Job: CEO of the Hogan Cos., a real estate development group
Education: B.A., Florida State University
Experience: Businessman; appointments secretary under Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
Personal: Married, three daughters