I still remember an early political ad against Hogan that ran in 2014 as part of Anthony Brown’s campaign. The ad sought to paint Hogan as a gun nut. It showed someone leaning an AK-47 against a tree in a children’s playground. My thought was, “This guy has to be bad news.”
Fortunately, as the race continued, I learned more about Larry Hogan. As I learned more, the more comfortable I became with the possibility of his being elected governor. While I did not agree with many of his positions, I realized he wasn’t a disaster. When he won, I figured he would be a one-term placeholder, a governor elected more by the deficiencies of his opponent than on his own merits.
Since taking office, Hogan has exceeded expectations, not an easy thing to do as a Republican in Maryland. He was identified as the nation’s most popular governor by Rolling Stone magazine. That doesn’t happen every day. He was elected chairman of the National Governors Association. And he emerged as a Republican voice of reason on COVID-19 at a time when Trump was advising people to drink Clorox.
Contrast Hogan with four other sitting governors, one of whom may not be in office much longer. At the head of the list is New York’s embattled Andrew Cuomo, under fire both for unwanted sexual advances and for his role in the tragedy at New York’s assisted living and nursing homes during the pandemic. He has gone from hero to zero. Because of his well-deserved reputation as a blow-hard bully, his fall from power is likely to be a hard one.
Then there is Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Along with his colleague Tate Reeves of Mississippi, he has “fully opened” Texas, opening the door for yet another surge in virus infections. This follows his ham-fisted response to the disaster across his state following the unprecedented cold snap. Hundreds of thousands of Texans lost power, in part because of how the state chose to deregulate and handle its power grid. Abbott was also quick to assign blame for the disaster while at the same time doing a poor job of keeping Texans informed about recovery efforts. The disaster, Abbott added, demonstrated how enactment of the Green New Deal would be a “deadly deal” nationwide.
If I were Abbott, I would look for a monastery, check myself in, and never be heard from again. Abbott has written the textbook on how not to lead a state.
Abbott is joined in his coronavirus philosophy by Tate Reeves. Mississippi, Reeves would have us believe, is now back to normal—no masks required and restaurants fully open. What motivated Reeves to act contrary to the CDC’s explicit guidance? He is attempting to save a political career rapidly going down the drain. A January poll found that 37% rated his leadership on the virus as excellent or good, 26 percent “fair,” and a full 37 percent as “poor” or “totally unacceptable.” Reeves appears to think that opening the state will win over those voters unhappy with closed restaurants and retail outlets. He is willing to take the risk of more infections and, unfortunately, deaths.
Finally, let’s take a look at Georgia’s Brian Kemp (R). When he first got elected in 2018, Stacey Abrams accused him of voter suppression. Then he embraced Donald Trump, only to be condemned by him for not fully embracing the ex-president’s efforts to reverse his 2020 election defeat. He now has vocal detractors on both the right and the left. His political future is, at best, murky.
Contrast Governor Hogan with this quartet of losers. The most telling difference is that Hogan sees leading Maryland as his job. He had Trump’s number before Trump even came into office. Since then, he aggressively maintained his distance, earning the respect of Marylanders in the process.
Hogan recognizes that Maryland is a Democratic state and has no delusions about creating a Red Wave. He has successfully worked with legislators on the other side of the aisle on many bills. And first and foremost, he has demonstrated empathy during the pandemic.
A 2020 poll found that Hogan enjoys the second highest job approval rate in the country. A large part of his popularity has been his leadership on the pandemic. Last year he boldly criticized the Federal government’s leadership and suggested that Trump’s delay in publicly acknowledging the severity of the pandemic caused unnecessary pain and deaths.
It’s been a tough few years. Maryland and the Eastern Shore are fortunate to have Larry Hogan on their side.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on Federal education and social service policy.