Let’s be honest: The Republican Party has always been kind of a joke in Maryland. There is no “political machine” to speak of. The party has no significant cash on hand in its reserves. And there is no organizational apparatus in any meaningful way. In Washington, Maryland Republicans have no representation in the upper chamber and only one lone vote in the House of Representatives. Generally speaking, if you’re a Republican in Maryland, electing a Rino — “Republican In Name Only” — is the closest thing you have to a victory.
Outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan, who once was considered to be the savior of the local Grand Old Party, is now losing his mind on national television after the decisive win by Del. Don Cox to be the state’s Republican nominee for governor. Mr. Hogan constantly proclaims that Mr. Cox is unelectable. We will see in November. What is getting lost in the conversation is the failure of Governor Hogan over the past eight years to lead and build the Maryland Republican Party into a legitimate player. While the governor has enjoyed unprecedented high approval numbers throughout most of his tenure, for the most part he has operated in isolation, publicly lashing out against President Donald Trump during both of Mr. Trump’s recent presidential runs. The governor wrote-in Ronald Reagan during one of Trump’s bids for the White House and voted for his daddy for the other.
Marylanders got to know who Larry Hogan was through his Change Maryland days as a pro-business advocate. While running Change Maryland, Mr. Hogan constantly railed against Martin O’Malley and the out-of-control spending and tax hikes that were a byproduct of one-party rule. Many in the business community who celebrated Mr. Hogan as a small-business ally mocked the governor as “lockdown Larry” during the pandemic. The governor sat quietly on Second Amendment issues until he no longer could because of a Supreme Court ruling several weeks ago.
His focus for the better part of a year has been to position himself for a run for higher office, most likely the presidency. You can find him just about any Sunday on one of the talking head shows. That’s where he was last Sunday, on ABCs “This Week,” attacking Mr. Cox.
Governing as a Republican in a deep blue state is a challenge that any reasonable person can appreciate. What is perplexing is why Gov. Hogan didn’t seize on the opportunity to build the Republican Party and most importantly groom a successor to be governor. Yes, he endorsed Kelly Schulz late in the game, but Republicans saw her campaign for what it was: another example of “at least I’m not the other guy.” Just about every Republican in Maryland would agree that divided government in our state is better for everyone. When the Democrats enjoy single-party rule there’s not a tax they won’t create or raise, a fee they won’t generate or a draconian regulation on small business that they won’t implement. Remember, it was Mr. Hogan’s railing against this very thing during the O’Malley administration that made Larry Hogan a household name in the first place via Change Maryland.
Now, after eight years of accomplishing almost nothing other than lowering tolls and playing his role in divided government, he is faced with the very question that led him to be governor to begin with: Do we want single-party extreme liberal rule, or do we want divided government?
In order to even have a shot at accomplishing this, the governor would need to get over his petty personal grievances against Mr. Cox. The governor’s frustration is understandable. Mr. Cox, who sought Mr. Hogan’s impeachment and was endorsed by Mr. Trump, didn’t only win the GOP nomination, he won by dramatic margins. What makes it worse is he not only shellacked the candidate Mr. Hogan endorsed but the candidate who campaigned as the continuation of Mr. Hogan’s style of governing.
It will cost Governor Hogan nothing to get over the past and support the nominee. The fact that he won’t could end up costing us all.
Jimmy Mathis is a Republican political strategist and commentator; his email is Mathis.firstname.lastname@example.org.