Five ways Larry Hogan appeals to Maryland Democrats

Gun Rights

Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has had a successful political career as a Republican in heavily blue Maryland. He’s now tasked with flipping a senate seat in the state to the GOP after serving eight years as governor.

Hogan has escalated his messaging toward the state’s Democrats since winning the May 14 Maryland Republican primary. He launched “Democrats for Hogan,” an initiative he also pushed before his 2018 reelection.

Hogan’s attempts to curry Democrats’ favor could prove essential in Maryland. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans over a 2-to-1 margin, according to the latest Maryland voter registration report released in March. 

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While Hogan faces an uphill battle for the more nationally inclined Senate position, Cook Political Report lists his race as “Likely Democrat,” he’s made many attempts to appeal to the state’s largest voter base. Here are some of them.

Changing abortion stance

Hogan recently described himself as “pro-choice” after previous hesitation to address abortion in Maryland and saying himself that he’s personally against abortion along with vetoing a state law two years ago that would’ve expanded abortion access. He’s also promised to enshrine abortion rights into the state’s constitution and restore Roe v. Wade.

“I support restoring Roe as the law of the land,” Hogan said. “I’ll continue to protect the rights of women to make their own reproductive choices just like I did as governor for eight years. I think Marylanders know and trust that when I give them my word, I’m going to keep it, and I’ve protected these rights before. And I’ll do it again in the Senate by supporting a bipartisan compromise to restore Roe as the law of the land.”

Restoring the landmark abortion case goes against much of what Republican senators would vote for, and implies he’d vote with Democrats on the issue. Still, some Democrats don’t believe Hogan would support abortion rights.

“If you believe that, I’d be happy to sell you the Key Bridge,” Brian Frosh, the state’s former attorney general, said, referencing the bridge that collapsed into the Patapsco River in March.

Maryland Democratic Senate nominee and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks has attacked Hogan on his abortion stance and insisted that “he’s no moderate” in a campaign ad.

Hogan’s campaign recently launched a counterattack against Alsobrooks’s claims that he is not going to support abortion rights by saying she is “entitled to her own opinion but not her own facts” at the beginning of a lengthy counterargument.

Recent refusal to attack Democrats

While Democrats have not hesitated to blast Hogan on abortion, caucusing with Republicans, and other issues, the Maryland Republican has done little of the same on social media.

In fact, Hogan didn’t hesitate to congratulate Alsobrooks on her Democratic primary victory and said, “I know Angela well, and I value our respectful relationship. I look forward to a real debate on what this campaign is about: who can actually help fix the mess in Washington.”

Hogan declined to unleash any sharp barbs toward Alsobrooks, leaning toward touting his own record instead in the post.

He also congratulated Rep. David Trone (D-MD), Alsobrooks’s unsuccessful primary competitor, in what could be an appeal to the more moderate Trone voters, who have now been left to vote for Alsobrooks or the familiar Hogan. Trone finished second in the primary race, securing 42.6% of Democratic votes.

Hogan has already implied that he’s against attacking Democrats.

Adversarial relationship with Donald Trump

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Hogan is well-known for criticizing former President Donald Trump, especially over his COVID-19 response, and has neither received an endorsement from the former president, nor given out his own to Trump. Reports say both are trying to stay out of each other’s way.

While this may appeal to Maryland voters, who voted for President Joe Biden 65% to Trump’s 32% in 2020, it also runs the risk of Hogan alienating Republicans supporting Trump.

Republicans supportive of Trump likely voted for Robin Ficker, who often touted a MAGA hat to campaign events and endorsed Trump in his presidential bid. Ficker lost to Hogan, but garnered nearly 30% of the Republican vote.

“We set out in this race to give Maryland Republicans who are tired of career politicians who sow division in their own party instead of fighting for the heart and soul of this amazing country we are blessed to live in,” Ficker said in a statement following the primary, a likely veiled jab at Hogan included.

Hogan’s messaging against Trump didn’t appear to hurt him in his 2018 reelection bid — he garnered nearly 4% more of the vote than his first try.

Centrist social media messaging

Hogan’s messaging often hasn’t attacked Democrats for their party affliation, so much as blasting politicians from both parties “who seem to be more interested in attacking each other than in actually getting anything done for the people they represent.”

In a social media post, Hogan said, “Every day Washington politicians play politics instead of addressing the border crisis, they are failing the American people.” And then seemingly appeals to Democrats by saying it “doesn’t matter if it’s proposed by Republicans or Democrats. It’s the right thing to do. I would gladly join with Senate Democrats to get this done.”

He hinted at his centrist position with a post that quoted the Baltimore Sun, saying, “He has lived up to his promise to govern in a way that reflects Maryland ‘middle temperament’.” Hogan endorsed the message, saying, “For eight years, we made sure the best ideas rose to the top based upon their merit, regardless of which side of the political debate they come from.”

One final hint lies in a post in which Hogan said it’s “time for independent leadership.”

The posts all contribute to the thought that Hogan is closer to what Trump might call a “RINO” or Republican in name only. Hogan could be a swing-vote in the Senate in the mold of Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and occasionally sub Republican-led efforts.

Promoting friendly policies as governor

Hogan often strayed from mainstream Republican thought in his governance of Maryland — enforcing mask mandates, taxing insurance companies in a de-facto defense of Obamacare, and distancing himself from the GOP-friendly National Rifle Association verbally and in gun-control legislation he endorsed.

In a poll following his exit as governor, 81% of Maryland Democrats approved of Hogan, which was 13 points higher than his approval rating among state Republicans, and clocked in a 77% approval rating overall.

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Hogan’s approval among Democrats equaled Biden’s, and a pollster told Maryland Matters that it was “the most fascinating finding in this survey.” The former governor’s policies likely contributed to Democrats’ favorable view of him, and he still managed to secure strong support from loyal GOP voters.

Hogan will face Democratic nominee Alsobrooks in the November general election. A poll conducted this month favored Alsobrooks by 10 points.

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