by Len Lazarick
Annapolis developer Larry Hogan says his month-old organization, Change Maryland, was “born out of frustration.”
“A lot of people are not happy with the direction of this state. Some businesses have closed and left the state. Others have just given up,” Hogan said in an interview about his new group.
“I think the stakes are too high for just to fold up the tent and to say we’ve given up,” Hogan said. That is particularly true after former Gov. Bob Ehrlich lost a second gubernatorial election to Martin O’Malley by 15 points last November, said Hogan.
Hogan, who served as Ehrlich’s appointment secretary, said if Ehrlich had decided not to have an electoral rematch with O’Malley, he would have run for governor last year as a Republican.
Hogan said the 15-point loss was partly because the Ehrlich campaign did not effectively put out his message. It was also because of “Martin O’Malley’s campaign being very effective at misleading the voters into believing that he was the fiscal conservative in the race,” and “Ehrlich was the tax and spend guy.”
But then after the election, Hogan said, O’Malley raised taxes and fees, and increased spending “by hundreds of millions of dollars.”
A lot of Marylanders feel the state is “way off track, and heading in the wrong direction,” Hogan said. “Our very economic future is at stake,” and “that’s why I formed Change Maryland.”
“We needed a voice for people who don’t seem to have one,” Hogan said.
“This is really not about Republicans and Democrats. It’s about people who believe we ought to have more common sense in Annapolis, and who want lower spending and lower taxes,” Hogan said. “It’s not a fight about the right and the left; it’s more about the difference between right and wrong.”
For instance, Hogan said the group would oppose any gas tax hike or other tax increases if they are proposed during the special session of the legislature that will be called this fall to deal with congressional redistricting.
The fledgling group now has more than 2,000 followers on Facebook, and, at the very least, looks like a way to keep Larry Hogan’s name out there.
“It certainly wouldn’t hurt if I run” for governor, Hogan said. “But if I don’t run, I will still get satisfaction out of this organization if we can make a difference.”
Political science professor Todd Eberly at St. Mary’s College of Maryland said Change Maryland’s agenda “is couched in the language of almost a Tea Party movement in state that really doesn’t seem to be Tea Party friendly,” given all its Democrats and government workers. But Hogan is “still tapping into the same force.”
According to Eberly, there’s no question Ehrlich’s team “ran a very poor campaign.” He said he had “no doubt [O’Malley] came into office [in 2007] wanting to be a tax and spend liberal, but he couldn’t be.”
“There’s a tremendous void with regard to the leadership of the Republican Party in this state,” Eberly said. “They have no idea who their figurehead is.”
Ehrlich served in that role for eight years, and gubernatorial candidate Ellen Sauerbrey filled that role for eight years before that.
“There’s going to be competition to see who’s being the leader,” and “Hogan is trying to do that,” Eberly said. “Hogan is trying to find a way to broaden his appeal,” and reach out to the many conservative Dems.
Looking at recent history, “change” was an effective message for President Barack Obama in 2008. It might work for Hogan, too.