It has to be a real balancing act to get things done as a Republican Governor in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has managed to remain effective and fairly popular in the deep blue state but some don’t like that he has distanced himself from the state GOP to do so.
Hogan is selective in who in the GOP he chooses to endorse and that agitates some. The story goes that you don’t ever need to put a lid on a crab basket because any crab who tries to escape will only be pulled back in by the rest of the crabs. At times the Republican Party in Maryland is fittingly a perfect example of “crab basket” politics.
Hogan, who disavowed GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump months ago, has also been keeping his distance from the state party, opting out of big fundraisers, endorsing only a few candidates and taking a hands-off approach in the selection of party leaders.
His approach is stirring resentment in some state GOP circles, including from state Del. Patrick L. McDonough (R-Harford), who is waging a long-shot bid to oust to veteran Rep. C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) and said the governor “should call it the Larry Hogan Party if he doesn’t want to be a Republican.”
McDonough is one of the most reliable crabs in the GOP basket. You can always rely on him to say something controversial just to get attention. He is in many ways like a bargain basement Donald Trump—right down to the troublesome looking hair—claiming to fight political correctness by acting like a jackass. He famously made news during the Baltimore riots by suggesting rioters have their food stamps taken away.
If McDonough is representative of Hogan’s critics within the party then Hogan is doing well. McDonough is a selective party cheerleader himself, having referred to former Secret Service Agent Dan Bongino as a “novelty act.” Bongino nearly overcame Democrat gerrymandering to unseat Democrat Congressman John Delaney in 2014.
“He is very aware that this is a state where the Republican Party is a distinct minority,” said Russell J. Schriefer, a Republican political strategist with close ties to the governor.
Matthew Crenson, a political-science professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins University, said that “by distancing himself from the Republican Party, [Hogan] stays acceptable to the Democrats in the state.”
Hogan, whose approval rating topped 70 percent in a recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll, said he does not think that his role as the top elected Republican official means deep involvement with the state party.
The executive director of the MD GOP has no trouble with Hogan’s level of involvement. McDonough disagrees.
McDonough, who hosts a talk radio show, said he pushed for Hogan on the program during both the 2014 Republican primary and the general election. In contrast, he said, the governor “hasn’t lifted a finger” to help McDonough or many other Republicans this election cycle.
“I understand it’s a strong blue state,” McDonough said, “but you should not go to an extreme position that you ignore your party.”
But Hogan hasn’t ignored the party. He has put his support behind Delegate Kathy Szeliga who is running against Democrat Congressman Chris Van Hollen for the U.S. Senate seat from which Barbara Mikulski is retiring. The Governor also backs Amie Hoeber running against John Delaney in MD-6 and Dr. Mark Plaster running against John Sarbanes in MD-3.
Maybe if he hasn’t lifted a finger to help candidates like Pat McDonough that says more about McDonough than it does about Hogan’s relationship with the GOP.