By David Jahng
Beating non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma into remission and being the first Maryland Republican governor elected for a second term since 1954 is no small feat.
But Gov. Larry Hogan will continue to work against the odds this legislative season, with Democrats maintaining a supermajority in the Maryland House and Senate.
Regardless, Hogan has previously touted his bipartisanship, and Wednesday’s inauguration was no different.
Cold reporters huddled together on the State House steps for a press conference with Hogan in the morning.
The governor said he was excited, humbled and ready for the challenges ahead.
Hogan said after his swearing in that in this term, he plans to continue the harder work of putting the people’s priorities before partisan interests.
“Do the right thing, and the politics will work itself out,” said Hogan.
Much of Hogan’s speech took jabs at the federal government’s inability to compromise.
“Heat, finger-pointing and rancor suffocates the light,” said Hogan. “That’s not politics, that’s political theater.”
Hogan said instead of putting on a show, over the next four years he will strive to be moderate, find compromise and encourage a government that will work together to find bipartisan solutions.
“I still believe that what unites us is stronger than what divides us,” Hogan said.
Maryland Lt. Gov Boyd Rutherford addressed that divide after being sworn in.
He said four years ago, he and Hogan had pledged they would be different from past administrations; they would serve as one executive power with the same agenda.
Hogan signaled his willingness to reach across the aisle by having Isiah “Ike” Leggett, former Montgomery County executive, make the opening statement.
“This inauguration is not an ordinary event,” Leggett said. “It is the official recognition and acceptance of the people of Maryland.”
Leggett was the first black Montgomery County executive and served for 12 years, until 2018.
Jeb Bush, 2016 GOP candidate and former governor of Florida, said Hogan’s governance contrasted the gridlock and dysfunction in Washington.
“There’s not a lot of people I would leave paradise for,” said Bush, referencing warm weather in Florida, “but Larry Hogan is at the top of that list.”
In standing by one of President Donald Trump’s former Republican rivals, Hogan further distanced himself from the conflict between parties on Capitol Hill.
During his last term, Hogan said he worked with Democrats to pass legislation on health care, transportation, the Chesapeake Bay and fracking. Now, for his second term, he said he is focusing on four areas: Education, economic opportunity, crime and redistricting.
Hogan wants to relieve student debt, reduce taxes on small businesses, raise sentences for firearm offenders and drunken drivers as well as create a nonpartisan redistricting process, according to his 2019 legislative proposals.
But he may face significant opposition in the state House and Senate, especially after eight House Republicans were ousted for Democrats in the 2018 elections.
Maryland Del. Anne Kaiser, D-Montgomery, said Hogan often talks up his bipartisanship but does not always work with Democrats.
Kaiser told Capital News Service that over the last four years, Hogan “advanced our agenda or signed off on it at the end, and claimed it as his own.”
She said she is curious to see what Hogan’s vision for the next four years will be, but said the House will provide for the working class no matter his plans.
Even with a House and Senate with the power to veto his decisions, Hogan still holds a 67 percent favorable opinion among Marylanders, according to an October 2018 Gonzales poll.
Queenstown resident Michael Parsons, 49, a Republican, said Hogan is “one of the most likable politicians you’ll ever meet.”
Parsons said Hogan found ways to pass good economic policy and improve business, even with a Republican minority in the House and Senate.
Jay Walton, 37, a Republican from Dundalk, said he was particularly impressed by Hogan’s steps toward improving education. Walton was just appointed to Hogan’s P-20 Leadership Council of Maryland, a schools-business partnership that aims to prepare students entering the workforce.
“He’s trying to hold education officials more accountable,” said Walton.
Melinda Craig, 68, a Republican from Havre de Grace, said Hogan is well-liked and well-loved in all counties, and that he truly cares about the people and the state.
“You can’t get anything done if you’re not for everyone,” said Craig.
Michele Cordle, 58, a Republican from Annapolis, said it is Hogan’s ability to put aside partisanism that makes both Republicans and Democrats love him.
“He has some challenges, but like anything that Larry faces, he’s going to take on the challenge,” said Cordle.
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