Popular Larry Hogan campaigns for few fellow Maryland Republicans

HAGERSTOWN — Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is the most popular political figure in Maryland, but this election season he has largely kept his star power to himself.

In a polarizing election, Hogan has eschewed a governor’s traditional role as de facto head of his political party. He has endorsed just four candidates, headlined a handful of fundraisers and made few public appearances with candidates on the campaign trail.

“I don’t think I have an obligation to elect Republicans,” Hogan said during a recent swing through Western Maryland. “I’m going to help the people I think are doing a good job.”

In less than a month, Maryland will elect a new senator to succeed retiring Barbara A. Mikulski, eight members of the House of Representatives and new mayor, City Council and comptroller for Baltimore.

Hogan’s judicial, low-key approach to the first political season of his tenure as governor reflects his reluctance to appear partisan and his desire that voters see him first as a leader, second as member of a political party.

The “Hogan endorsed” addition “reminds Marylanders that Kathy Szeliga is of the exact same mold as Larry Hogan,” said Leslie Shedd, Szeliga’s deputy campaign manager.

Szeliga’s fundraising lags far behind that of her opponent, Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, but a fundraiser Hogan headlined for Szeliga took in more than $60,000. Shedd said it was one of the most lucrative events of Szeliga’s campaign.

This weekend, Hogan campaigned in Western Maryland with Szeliga and 6th Congressional District candidate Amie Hoeber. Hogan endorsed Hoeber last month.

“He charms everyone, and that’s obviously a help to me,” Hoeber said, adding she thinks a Friday fundraiser with the governor was her most successful yet.

Hoeber is trying to wrestle the 6th District from Democratic Rep. John Delaney, a political adversary of Hogan who once paid for a mobile billboard challenging the governor to take a position on Trump. To antagonize the governor, Delaney had the truck circle the State House in Annapolis.

Hogan “wants someone in Congress he can work with, and he obviously can’t work with the incumbent,” Hoeber said.

While Hogan has appeared sporadically in public for Hoeber, at least one of his allies is involved in the effort to elect her. Steve Crim, Hogan’s former campaign manager, who left the administration in May, was paid $15,000 last month to act as consultant for a super PAC supporting Hoeber, according to a recent Federal Election Commission filing.

The committee, Maryland USA, is funded almost exclusively by Hoeber’s husband, Mark Epstein.

Maryland’s previous Republican governor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., played a more prominent role in the state party, hand-picking a chairman and regularly attending fundraisers.

Hogan has not openly weighed in on party leadership. He skipped the party’s biggest fundraisers two years in a row and declined invitations to smaller ones, though Cluster said the governor does help raise money.

“He’s not openly being, ‘Hey, give to the Republican Party,'” Cluster said. “The governor would have not gotten elected if he had not gotten 20 percent of the Democrats to vote for him. In this state, you have to appeal to the Democrats.”

Hogan said it’s not his role to lead Maryland Republicans. “We have a chairman of the Republican Party. That’s obviously not me.”

Baltimore Sun reporter John Fritze and the Associated Press contributed to this article.



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