Now that the Maryland General Assembly has wrapped things up in Annapolis, Gov. Larry Hogan can start focusing on the business of getting re-elected in a state that registers two-to-one Democrat.
And Democratic gubernatorial candidates can start focusing on the business of connecting Hogan to that other well-known Republican, President Donald Trump.
Unfortunately for the Democrats, Hogan’s too smart for that, and too civilized. Yes, he’s a Republican, but that doesn’t mean he’s another Trump. He’s been more moderate on specific issues, such as gun control, and he’s actually worked with legislators to get some things accomplished.
(Nobody’s heard a whisper of cooperation between Trump and any Democrats ever since House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) thought they had a deal on immigration, and Trump blind-sided them the very next day.)
In Annapolis, the governor and the Democratic-dominated legislature have had their fights, notably over the dispersal of money for school construction and renovation, and the power to discipline teachers, which they managed to work out.
But there’s a far greater sense of bipartisanship in Annapolis than they knew under the previous Republican governor of Maryland, Robert L. Ehrlich – and far more cooperation there than we’ve witnessed in Washington since the dawning of the Trump administration.
Coming out of the last legislative session, Washington area voters are happy about millions for their Metro System. Baltimore area voters saw compromise on public safety issues: tougher prison sentences for repeat violent offenders, but a softening on those who have paid their dues – some felons can have their convictions expunged after 15 years.
But there are lingering concerns about Hogan helping the Baltimore area. Partly, it’s a comfort level. He grew up in Prince George’s County and knows the area intimately.
Also, he can count. There was a time when the city of Baltimore was widely acknowledged as the political, economic and cultural heart of Maryland. And even when that era was slipping away, we still had enough clout to get Baltimore area political figures, such as Marvin Mandel and William Donald Schaefer, elected governor. They looked out for their old hometown.
And even Parris Glendening, though hailing from the D.C. suburbs, understood the importance of paying verbal tribute to Baltimore, even when he didn’t mean it.
But the numbers have changed everything.
Montgomery County now has the biggest population of any jurisdiction (more than 1 million people) and Prince George’s County isn’t far behind. Baltimore County has just over 800,000 people. And the city of Baltimore, which had nearly 1 million people in the post-war years, is now down to about 620,000.
Hogan knows all of this. If Democrats such as Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz want to poke at Hogan, they might find greater success questioning Hogan’s concerns about the Baltimore area rather than trying to tie him to Donald Trump.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books. His most recent, “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age,” has just been re-issued in paperback by the Johns Hopkins University Press.