By Len Lazarick
Boyd Rutherford did not have to be reminded about what he told me at a holiday party in December.
“I know I told you I’d never do this,” Rutherford said last week, grinning as he grabbed my arm. But he is doing it after all — running for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Larry Hogan.
Back in December, I had run into Rutherford at the typically packed party of Davis Agnor Rappaport & Skalny on Columbia’s downtown lakefront.
The party was just two weeks after Hogan had announced he was going to announce for governor in January. He threw a big party at the GOP semiannual convention to make the announcement of the announcement. I wrote at the time:
“Hogan was introduced by attorney Boyd Rutherford, who most people in the room didn’t recognize. Rutherford would make an interesting choice as a running mate for Hogan. The Howard County attorney is African American and former secretary of General Services in the Ehrlich administration, as well as an assistant U.S. secretary of agriculture under President Bush.”
It was just informed speculation. Hogan told me after last Thursday’s big announcement that he was not even thinking about a running mate when he had Rutherford introduce him, but maybe that blog post put the thought in his mind. They actually didn’t discuss it until mid-January, Hogan said.
The choice of Rutherford enhances the ticket. Hogan has strong private sector experience running his own real estate company and a four-year stint as Ehrlich’s appointments secretary — in charge of filling government posts. Rutherford’s bio shows he has longer government management experience as well as diverse work in the private sector. He is that relatively rare bird in Maryland — a conservative African American Republican.
Hogan’s delayed entry into the race was once questioned as a strategy, but now looks like part of a well-executed plan. That’s especially true after January’s campaign finance reports show the other three Republicans with very weak fundraising figures.
Hogan brings several advantages to the race. He is not a career politician, although he has strong political credentials. His father of the same name was Prince George’s County’s last Republican executive and a congressman who bravely voted for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon — a fact that generated astounding applause from Hogan’s heavily Republican audience last week.
Hogan can stir up a crowd with a well-delivered and simple message about jobs, taxes and the economy, the message of Change Maryland he has honed over two and half years. He continues to emphasize his cross-over appeal to Democrats unhappy with Gov. Martin O’Malley and his chosen successor, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.
“This isn’t a fight between right and left, it’s a fight between right and wrong,” says Hogan.
(Some David Craig insiders apparently believe Hogan is paying MarylandReporter.com for positive coverage, but we have received no money from any of the candidates for governor in either party. We have even turned down ads from an independent PAC backing Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, since we don’t accept money from campaign committees or PACs.)
Hogan’s shared disadvantages
But Hogan also has the disadvantages of the other Republicans in the race. The first is being Republican in a very Democratic state.
In the last 50 years, Maryland has elected only two Republican governors who served a total of just six years — Spiro Agnew and Bob Ehrlich. They won because Democratic voters were unhappy with their party’s nominees.
The only way Hogan, Craig, Ron George or Charles Lollar can win is if the June 24 primary leaves the Democratic nominee — Brown is still the presumptive favorite — bloodied and broke, with Democrats divided and disgusted over a bruising primary battle.
Money will still be very difficult for a Republican to raise, as Hogan’s decision to accept public financing makes clear. Wealthy Republicans, the few still left in Maryland, are reluctant to place bets on a lost cause and the party’s fundraising genius, Dick Hug, is no longer around to shake the money tree.
Hogan is betting that, contrary to what polling has apparently told Brown, Marylanders want real change from the policies of the O’Malley years.
Here are related stories about Larry Hogan.
Here is a story about fundraising totals.