Photo by Ethan McLeod

With three months to go before Election Day, incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan is opening up a Baltimore campaign office at a prominent corner in Station North.

The vacant bank at the northeast corner of N. Charles Street and North Avenue—the one carrying a billboard tagged with prominent Freddie Gray-referencing graffiti that reads, “WHO EVER DIED FROM A ROUGH RIDE?” (the response to that query, “THE WHOLE DAMN SYSTEM,” has been covered by more graffiti)—will temporarily serve as the Baltimore campaign office for the governor. The building’s doors on Thursday sport signs with the slogan “Democrats for Hogan.”

The space in the arts-centric neighborhood has been largely vacant for the last several decades, The Sun reported in 2017. It was used as a pop-up “Made in Baltimore” shop last winter. Property records show it’s owned by Anthony Cheng of Alexandria, Virginia.

Hogan, who consistently logs approval ratings in the upper sixties and low seventies, was polling noticeably well with Democrats before the June primary, with 60 percent of likely voters saying they approve his job performance in a June poll.

But Baltimore (along with the D.C. suburbs) is no stronghold for the Republican governor, who in 2015 memorably nixed the long-awaited Red Line project that sought to connect East and West Baltimore by light rail, and last year scrapped a years-old deal to redevelop the aged State Center government complex.

That local support instead goes to Ben Jealous, the progressive Democrat and former NAACP president running to oust Hogan this November. In a January Gonzales poll, 59 percent of registered Baltimore City voters said they would vote for Jealous in a potential match-up (before Jealous won the June 26 Democratic primary), while 27 percent said they would pick Hogan.

Jealous, whose platform includes the lofty challenge of reviving the Red Line, introducing single-payer health care to Maryland and making college tuition free, does not have a campaign office in Baltimore. A spokesman from his campaign said in an email Thursday that they held campaign activities from the Service Employees International Union’s Baltimore office during primary season, and plan to open up other offices across the state, including in Baltimore, “in the coming weeks.”

Scott Sloofman, communications director for Hogan’s re-election campaign, said in an emailed statement that they picked the building, and Station North in general, because Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford “wanted to show that they would fight for every single vote.”

“They believe their message of a more affordable Maryland that encourages the creation of good jobs and more opportunity resonates in every part of the state,” Sloofman said, “but especially in areas like West Baltimore that historically has not had as much opportunity.” (Station North sits in North Baltimore, about 10 blocks from Penn North at the northern edge of West Baltimore.)

Hogan’s campaign has not responded to a follow-up email asking whether they plan to retain the graffiti, a question first posed by former Baltimore Beat managing editor and City Paper editor-in-chief Brandon Soderberg in a Twitter thread about the “Democrats for Hogan” office’s opening.

The campaign office officially opens this Saturday with a party. An online event listing promises a barbecue, giveaways and chances to meet with “official representatives,” community leaders and volunteers.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...