Through Perseverance, A Leader Rises
On the banks of the Chesapeake Bay, a deep-blue state had elected the second Republican governor in more than 40 years. In 2014, The Washington Post called it a stunning upset. Larry Hogan, the son of a former congressman, toppled the state’s popular lieutenant governor, Anthony G. Brown, to become the 62nd governor of Maryland. Four years later, he made history, becoming only the second Republican governor in state history to be re-elected and the first since 1954.
Back in 1981, at the age of 24, Hogan ran for Congress in a special election to fill the seat once occupied by his father. Although he finished second of twelve candidates in the Republican primary, he lost by nearly 41 points, a defeat that humbled him. In 1992, he tried again, and this time, he was the Republican nominee for the seat he lost eleven years prior. Unfortunately, the outcome was the same, losing to incumbent Congressman Steny Hoyer. In that race, Hogan was outspent by Congressman Hoyer (by a 6-to-1 margin), but he made a name for himself: Larry Hogan became the only challenger to come close to defeating Hoyer since he was first elected in 1981.
From 2003 to 2007, Hogan served as Maryland’s secretary of appointments in the cabinet of Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich, and that’s when things changed. His path to the Government House, better known as the Governor’s Mansion, was paved as he pitched himself to voters as a businessman focused on the economy and jobs. He founded Change Maryland, a non-profit, anti-tax organization that served as a springboard to his 2014 election (“The organization had just as many Democrats and independents as it had Republicans”).
During his first year in office as a governor, Hogan was faced with a challenge of a different kind, and one that he never expected. On June 22, 2015, he announced he had been diagnosed with stage-three non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The diagnosis was a gut punch, but something he was committed to fighting. After nearly 18 weeks of intensive chemotherapy, he announced he was in remission before declaring he was cancer-free in the fall of 2016.
Up until this point in his life, Hogan has persevered through political losses and become a true survivor. Today, halfway through his second – and final – term, there is much left to accomplish. He is a pragmatist who would be happy to leave his state in a better way than he found it, hoping that people will look back and say that he was a governor who was willing to work toward bipartisanship to devise common-sense solutions to some of the state’s biggest problems. When asked about his 2014 win, Hogan takes a deep breath and opines, “In 2014, Maryland was the bluest state in America. Most people didn’t give me much of a chance. It is the first elective office I’ve ever held and I approached it with vigor.” This mindset is why he maintains broad appeal throughout the state today.
Hogan’s leadership approach is a commitment to building relationships and forging civil discussions focused on pragmatic solutions. He understands that all Marylanders do not agree with him, nor should they. However, while Democratic leaders make up 70 percent of the state’s legislature, he is making serious inroads. “People are crying out for bipartisanship. I’m a believer in a bigger tent, and coming up with a message people can agree upon rather than things that divide us,” he says.
This year, his leadership has been challenged mightily as COVID-19 became all-encompassing. Hogan is frank and honest about how much of a struggle it has been. “No one was prepared for something like this, no one was really ready, we were all caught flat-footed. PPE acquisition was difficult, but we persevered, and we have an emergency stockpile today,” he shares. “We have all learned a lot from this pandemic, and we’ll all be better prepared moving forward.” However, it is important to note that the Johns Hopkins University researchers predicted 12,000 Maryland deaths by June 1, 2020, but the mitigation actions under Hogan’s leadership led to aggressive efforts, and as of press time on December 25, there have been 5,627 deaths in total (“I took it very seriously early with aggressive action to stop the spread and mitigate”).
He feels his chairmanship of the National Governors Association helped him prepare (the new chair has been Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York since August). At this past February’s NGA winter meeting, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci (director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) and Dr. Robert R. Redfield (director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) – who are now household names – briefed the governors on the potential of the pandemic. It was then that he realized the severity of the infectious disease and the impact it could have; therefore, when the first cases were identified in Maryland, he was quick to act. He worked closely with Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser, both Democrats, to take a bipartisan approach to devise restrictions and regional communications. The approach dealt with shutdowns, travel between jurisdictions, forbidden travel, as well as working closely with Delaware on beach closures. This bipartisan approach of the regional leaders helped stabilize the D.C. metropolitan region, and it ultimately saved lives, bringing the jurisdictions closer together in crisis.
Hogan realizes COVID-19 will define his legacy. He is reflective of his time in office but appropriately focused on the task at hand. “I want to give this job everything I’ve got. I haven’t given thought to what’s next. I have a job to finish,” he says. “We’re still in a state of emergency, still focusing on economic recovery, and my goal is to do the best job I can for the people who elected me.” He understands that his top priority is to keep Marylanders safe, but leaves us with a teaser: “I know that I would like to be a part of the discussion nationally, especially around how we improve our partisan politics and how we find a way to bring the country together. I think I have something to offer the discussion – because if we can accomplish that here in our state of Maryland, there’s almost no state in America where that can’t be done,” he affirms.
Writer: Matt Anthes
Photographer & Videographer: Joanna Tillman
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to the Maryland State House (msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdstatehouse/html/home.html) & EPK Media (@myepk & @epkmedia - epkmedia.com)