The last time Maryland elected a Republican governor to a second term, his name was Theodore McKeldin, a man who would be regarded today as a Democrat in hiding.
Maybe Larry Hogan noticed. McKeldin was a liberal Republican – a term that’s become an oxymoron – and the year of his reelection was 1954. In McKeldin’s time, he was a Republican governor of Maryland and a Republican mayor of Baltimore.
We invoke his name today because Hogan, a Republican and newly reelected in overwhelmingly Democratic Maryland, might have studied a little McKeldin history in order to make his own history.
Like McKeldin, Hogan saw beyond partisan politics as he defeated his Democrat rival, Ben Jealous. Hogan never bought into the poisonous rhetoric of President Donald Trump, and instead aimed for the middle ground, for practicalities that could be embraced by both political parties.
“In this deep blue state, in this blue year, with a blue wave,” Hogan said at his victory celebration on Nov. 6, “it turns out I can surf, and we had a purple surfboard.”
The “blue wave” reference was a little overstated. Across the country, the Democrats recaptured the House of Representatives but not the Senate. The president no longer controls both houses, but he still has the loudest voice in America, and the shrillest.
In his first four years, Hogan never went that way. Even his Democratic opponent took notice as he conceded defeat.
“I have no doubt that [Hogan] cares deeply about our state and the families who call it home,” Jealous said. “It is not an easy task to serve as a Republican governor in a blue state. General Colin Powell told me a long time ago, ‘It’s easy to figure out what we can disagree on. What’s tougher and more important in a democracy is to figure out what we can agree on and get that done.'”
Hogan’s only the third Republican elected governor of Maryland in the last half-century. Spiro Agnew didn’t even finish his first term. He was elected vice president on Richard Nixon’s 1968 team, and then became the first vice president ever forced to resign when he was caught taking bribes.
Robert Ehrlich’s singular gubernatorial term ended when he became the only sitting governor in the entire country who failed to get reelected. In his four years in office, Ehrlich made it a point to stress his differences with Democrats.
He paid the price for it.
Maybe Hogan noticed that piece of history, too. And rejected it. And got himself reelected governor of Maryland, the first time a Republican’s done that in nearly two-thirds of a century.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books. His most recent book, “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age,” published by the Johns Hopkins University Press, is now in paperback.