In progressive Maryland, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one, Gov. Larry Hogan currently enjoys a 70-percent approval rating.
He’s politically outnumbered in the House of Delegates, where 90 of the 141 delegates are Democrats. But since taking office on Jan. 15, 2015, as Maryland’s 62nd governor, Hogan has achieved, at least in part, many of his campaign promises, including cutting tolls, regulations and taxes.
Mark Uncapher, chairman of Montgomery County’s Republican Party, attributed Hogan’s popularity to his focus on keeping his promises and dealing with issues pertinent to Maryland without stepping into the nasty national political scene.
“We are finding a very significant number of Democratic and independent voters” who intend to vote for Hogan over his Democratic challenger, Ben Jealous, Uncapher said.
A June Washington Post-University of Maryland poll showed that Hogan would defeat Jealous 50 percent to 39 percent, with 10 percent undecided.
Even County Executive Ike Leggett “is reluctant to support Ben Jealous,” Uncapher said. “I don’t think Ben Jealous is within the mainstream” of Maryland voters.
Hogan has spent his first term “making government work without raising taxes and fees,” Uncapher said.
Obtaining federal funds to get the Purple Line going and working toward easing traffic congestion by adding lanes to Route 270 and the Beltway through a public-private partnership are issues people care about, and Hogan is addressing, he said.
Hogan worked with politicians in Maryland and Virginia to form a consensus that led to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority receiving a combined total of $500 million, its first dedicated funding ever.
Hogan also cooperated with state legislators to prepare an incentive package, worth millions in tax breaks and new infrastructure, to lure Amazon’s second headquarters to the White Flint area.
Working with politicians on both sides of the aisle “hasn’t been that hard. I knew what I was getting into,” Hogan said in a speech last week in Bethesda to the Economic Club. “I talked about trying to find that middle ground, where we can all work together,” said Hogan, adding he believed he has done just that.
It hasn’t been all rosy for Hogan, who has crossed paths with state educators both in the way he funds school districts and his move to begin the school year after Labor Day.
Starting school in September “wasn’t done for educational reasons, but for the tourists,” said Cheryl Bost, president of Maryland State Education Association.
“When summer is longer, students regress in their knowledge, and many of our impoverished students” lose out on free and reduced meals offered throughout the school year, she said.
“We do have concerns, great concerns, with Gov. Hogan and where he’s taken education,” Bost said. “He has really underfunded education.”
She criticized both his voucher program, which enables students to attend private schools at reduced costs, and his decision to bring U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to Carderock Elementary School for a visit last year.
In many other states, voters are flocking to Democratic candidates to show their disapproval of President Donald Trump. While Trump didn’t win in Maryland, the trickle down doesn’t appear to be hurting Hogan.
Some have criticized Hogan for not standing up to Trump. Hogan, instead, has chosen to concentrate on Maryland first. During his recent speech to the Economic Club, he said, “I am really, completely disgusted with politics” and “this culture of divisiveness.”
However, he has made his negative feelings about the President known, publicly announcing that he voted for his father rather than for Trump or Hillary Clinton for president.
In a tweet, Hogan declared Russian President Vladimir Putin “a thug,” and said “his actions against our democracy are despicable.”
Hogan came out against separating immigrant families as they cross into this country and pulled the state’s lone helicopter and its four crew members from its deployment in New Mexico in protest.
Despite his intent to stay out of the national political scene, Hogan, the current vice chairman of the National Governors Association, will become its president in July 2019, thrusting him onto the national scene.
Meanwhile, Hogan said he is working to make Maryland a welcoming place for new business.
When Hogan took office, the state’s unemployment rate was 5.5 percent. At the beginning of this year, it was 4.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
He has addressed the opioid crisis in the state and dedicated money for prevention, education and enforcement, of which the County received $186,000. However, according to the federal National Institute of Drug Abuse, deaths from drug abuse continue to rise here.
Dave Pasti has seen firsthand how voters in District 19 have taken to Hogan. As a Republican running for delegate in a very blue district, Pasti claimed to have knocked on 3,200 doors and spoken with 700 residents. “I need a lot of Democrats to vote for me,” he explained.
He frequently has heard good things about Hogan from registered Democrats. “Oh yeah, they are definitely going to vote for him,” Pasti said. Voters are impressed that Hogan “is not a party line kind of guy. They see the bipartisanship.”