Larry Hogan was kicking himself after his brief speech to some 250 guests at his waterfront home in Edgewater Thursday night. He blew a major applause line by forgetting to mention a top accomplishment of his anti-O'Malley policy group, Change Maryland.
Change Maryland had just surpassed Gov. Martin O'Malley on Facebook with 46,790 "likes" compared to O'Malley's 46,135.
"We're the largest and fastest growing grassroots organization in Maryland," Hogan said in an interview, with 10 times more “likes” than Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown. His nonprofit group has more thumbs-up than all the candidates of both parties combined.
Not that Hogan is running for anything -- at the moment. Started two years ago, Change Maryland has long been presumed to be a shadow operation for Hogan's own candidacy for governor.
"I don't have any plans to announce," Hogan said. Hogan, a real estate broker and former appointments secretary for Gov. Bob Ehrlich, explored running for governor in 2010, but abandoned the race when Ehrlich got in.
"I just want to lead the opposition to the current administration," Hogan said. It was Change Maryland that came up with perhaps the most widely touted GOP slam against the O'Malley-Brown administration -- that it passed 40 consecutive tax and fee hikes.
High water mark on taxes
There might be some quibbling about the precise number. But there's little question that July 1 marks a new high water mark. That's when a gas tax increase and major toll hikes on major bridges and tunnels go into effect, and bills that include the stormwater fees dubbed the "rain tax" are supposed to be mailed out with property tax bills. Republican legislators have scheduled several events Monday to mark the event.
CORRECTION: Change Maryland, a 527
501(c)(4) nonprofit, has been operating as a kind of open-source opposition research firm.
"This is not just another fight between Republicans and Democrats," Hogan said. He maintains his organization includes thousands of Democrats and independents fed up with O'Malley policies. "If that's 'moving Maryland forward,’ " as the governor proclaims, "maybe next year it's time to take Maryland back," Hogan said.
There were few Democrats in evidence at Hogan's event, with the exception of former Gov. Marvin Mandel and his lobbyist "chauffeur" Bruce Bereano. There were Ehrlich Administration alumni including former first lady Kendel Ehrlich, and lots of Republican elected officials and party donors present, including a few running against each other in party primaries next year, such as Anne Arundel Executive Laura Neuman and Del. Steve Schuh, who wants Neuman's job. The most prominent were the only two announced Republican candidates for governor, Harford County Executive David Craig and Anne Arundel Del. Ron George, busily working the crowd.
Hogan was happy to host them in his house on a secluded peninsula jutting out into Beard's Creek off the South River.
"These folks are making a huge mistake coming out so early," Hogan said. "Rarely would you want to run a race for more than 12 months," calling it "just a sign of weakness."
Hogan eyes November race
Hogan freely concedes he's looking at next year's election. "My only concern would be if I could win the race in November," and the only way to do that is with "a sizable numbers of independents and Democrats."
At the moment, there's no telling where the economy and what the lay of the land will be, he said, and he'll likely wait till January to decide.