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July 30, 2018

Democrats for Hogan

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

One old school political ploy is to use your opponent’s strength against them. At the national level, they’ve been doing it for years.

 

The most recent, and powerful, example might be Kentucky, Michigan and West Virginians for Trump, a mix of former coal miners and blue collar factory workers that banded together, without regard to party, to line up behind a message that resonated opportunity and possibility.

 

Now, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is rolling out his own cross-party strategy.

 

Democrats for Hogan is a media/PR strategy to introduce current and former Democrat officeholders that support the incumbent Republican governor. Their reasons are as varied as their individual personalities, but a few common themes emerge.

 

Most of them fear the effects of the policy ideas of their party’s nominee, Ben Jealous. Mr. Jealous, a fan of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (who declares himself a Democrat socialist) has already advocated for a $15 per hour minimum wage, free college tuition, and healthcare for all. And it’s not even Labor Day!

 

Maryland Democrats who have to run in suburban and rural areas are rightfully fearful of this sort of big government, tax-and-spend ideology. They know that’s primarily the reason Larry Hogan got elected in the first place. Of course, the Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George’s County progressives will eat up the Jealous campaign message. They’ve historically supported irresponsible giveaways with no known source of revenue to pay the bill when it comes due (and it always does).

 

Some of these self-identified Hogan supporters are to be expected; others are a bit of a surprise. Clayton Mitchell, a former House Speaker from the Eastern Shore, was always considered a bit of a “blue dog,” or traditional-values Democrat. Likewise Western Maryland icon Casper Taylor, another former House Speaker who ruled over the Chamber with an iron fist.

 

Speaker Taylor mostly voted with his Cumberland constituency until the 2002 election that ushered in the reign of the much-more liberal incumbent Speaker Michael Busch of the Annapolis area.

 

The lot of Democrats for Mr. Hogan include some former county officials, including former Washington County Commissioner Ron Bowers. Commissioner Bowers, still very active in philanthropic and community endeavors over the mountain, was always considered a practical, thoughtful public servant during his time in office.

 

The big surprise might be the number of current municipal-elected Democrats, although all of those who’ve signed on so far ran for nonpartisan offices (mayors, city and town council). Regardless, it’s a big deal when any elected, or former elected, official puts their personal affiliation on the line to support a statewide candidate from the other party.

 

Proof, you ask?

 

How many Republicans in Maryland, anywhere in Maryland, are signing onto the Ben Jealous campaign?

 

Answer? None, zero, nada.

 

There is no plan or movement to roll out some recognizable statewide Republicans who support Ben Jealous. For one thing, there just aren’t that many Republicans with statewide name recognition.

 

Remember, it’s Maryland.

 

For another thing, you’d never find any REAL Republican who would have anything to do with most of the Jealous agenda. Too progressive, too poorly conceived, and far too likely to result in crippling tax increases to make good on the empty promises.

 

It's important to remember that not all Republicans are head-over-heels in love with Governor Hogan, either. His moderate stance on guns, his support of subsidized college tuition, and his embrace of Medicaid expansion to increase health insurance coverage are not pages from the GOP playbook. Far from it.

 

But, almost every Republican voter will mark the box beside the Hogan name. It’ll be the “devil you know” vote. Oh, there might be a few holdouts, but they'd be considered fringe at best.

 

This upcoming gubernatorial election, like no other in recent memory, will divide the electorate in new and unusual ways. The as-yet unanswered question to watch will be what effect this Democrats for Hogan movement will have in counties where Democrats hold office and face a serious GOP challenge.

 

Could we see coattails from the Hogan campaign sweep Republicans into office over incumbent Democrats in places like Howard and Frederick counties?

 

That’s far less obvious this early, but definitely something to watch if you’re interested in the District 3 Senate or Delegate races, or even the county executive and county council seats.

 

Democrats for Hogan might just translate into GOP unanticipated gains in other races!

 



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