Hogan's Senate run puzzles former peers in Annapolis


Gov. Hogan addresses Maryland in the governor’s reception room on Sept. 8, 2021. Rachel Logan/Capital News Service

By Lydia Hurley
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Just days after causing a stir in the state capitol by joining the race for U.S. Senate, a potential election poll showed that former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan could be competitive against his Democratic and Republican opponents. 

The moderate Republican enters a critical national race that could put control of the Senate at stake. State Treasurer Dereck E. Davis, a Democrat from Mitchellville, said a Hogan win could threaten Democratic control of the U.S. Senate.

“If they were to vote for Gov. Hogan, effectively they’re voting for Mitch McConnell,” said Davis, referring to the Senate Republican leader from Kentucky. “It could flip the Senate.”

Still, he said, it never hurts to have a different point of view like the one Hogan might bring to the national Republican party, Davis said.

“It’s always good to have diversity of thought. I’m not going to get into internal Republican Party politics,” he said. “But I think it’s healthy when you have various viewpoints ... It’s great not to have groupthink and rather to have competing ideas.”

Hogan’s recent decision to run for the open Senate seat came as a shock to many of the state's lawmakers — especially Democrats who recalled how often the former Republican governor worked to block legislation.

Senate President Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore City, told reporters this week he thought the former governor “did not seem to be an enthusiast of the legislative process.”

“I was very taken aback to see that he is interested in introducing bills, working with legislators, trying to create coalitions to build consensus and pass laws,” Ferguson said. “That’s the role of the U.S. Senate.”

Capital News Service has reached out to Hogan’s campaign several times this week for comment but received no reply.

A Trump critic, Hogan could appeal to unaffiliated voters

As a frequent critic of former president Donald Trump, Hogan could potentially appeal to independent voters or moderates in a general election.  He showed broad appeal among independents, picked up Democratic voters as well as a majority of Republican votes in a potential election poll conducted by Emerson College Feb. 12-13.

Based on the poll of Maryland voters, Hogan led the Republican field in a potential Senate primary, tied with Democratic Congressman David Trone in a general election scenario, and took the lead in a hypothetical matchup with Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, the other high-profile Democrat vying for the open Senate seat.

After the former governor vetoed several bills with widespread support from Democratic lawmakers, there is “no chance” Democrats in Maryland are going to vote for Hogan, state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, D-Montgomery, said.

“He has a terrible record that he’s now going to have to defend. It’s hard to imagine how he could be successful,” Kagan said.

Kagan also voiced concerns about the impression that Hogan is a moderate. “He’s not nearly as moderate as his PR people try to make us believe,” Kagan said.

Senator Benjamin Kramer, D-Montgomery, echoed that sentiment.  “Although he has done an outstanding job of creating this impression that he is a moderate, he is far from that,” Kramer said.

Gov. Moore takes issue with Hogan on abortion

Nearly a year after his term ended and Democratic Gov. Wes Moore took office, Hogan’s legacy remains a topic of controversy that echoes through the halls of the State House. The former governor vetoed some of Democrats’ favorite bills on topics like abortion, gun restrictions and an education blueprint. 

Moore himself aimed a punch at Hogan during the State of the State address Feb. 7, saying that the former executive spent too much time picking fights with the legislature instead of showing “real leadership and engagement” in Annapolis.

In his first interview since he announced his Senate campaign, Hogan said that it's “not necessary” to enshrine the right to abortion in Maryland’s constitution, though he would oppose an outright nationwide abortion ban, according to the Baltimore Banner. Democrats were quick to offer their critique.

“Anyone who thinks that there is no threat to women’s reproductive rights and abortion access is delusional,” Gov. Moore said in response to Hogan’s comments earlier this week.

Moore said the country has seen the Supreme Court “dismantle decades of precedent overnight,” and he asserted that Republicans continue to “stand by” as women’s reproductive rights are attacked across the country.

This November, Marylanders will be asked to vote on whether to enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution. In 2023, the General Assembly voted to include reproductive rights question on the November 2024 ballot.

Hogan seeks `common ground'

Hogan was a popular governor and consistently scored favorable approval ratings during his two terms in office, according to polls conducted by Goucher College

In announcing his candidacy, Hogan pointed to his record of eight years of successful tax cuts, a balanced budget and a record surplus as governor. “And we did it all by finding common ground for the common good," Hogan said in a video message.

Some Maryland Republicans believe Hogan has a chance of winning the Senate race in November. He has proven he can win in Maryland on a statewide basis and can find a way to map out how to be successful, said Sen. Stephen Hershey, R-Kent, Queen Anne’s, Cecil and Caroline counties.

“A U.S. senator election is going to be certainly based on presidential turnout, where the national candidates are at the time, so many different things that come into play during those elections,” Hershey said.

“We haven’t had a Republican in the U.S. Senate from Maryland since the ‘80s. It will be a challenge for him,” Del. Jason Buckel, R-Allegany, said. A win for Hogan is going to be an “uphill climb,” Buckel said.

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