By Len Lazarick
As Gov. Larry Hogan approached the podium Thursday wearing a muted plaid sports shirt under his suit coat, I asked him if it was “casual Thursday.” No, he said he wanted to look like the reporters, then noticed most of the male scribes were wearing ties.
Then, he turned serious, since “we’re all about transparency” and started to talk about the skin cancers that were to be removed this weekend.
“Before you got into speculation about what the other guy looked like, I wanted to tell you about it,” Hogan joked.
He’ll probably be sporting bandages on his face for a few days, so explaining that he was having the most common form of skin cancers removed on Saturday was probably a wise way to get ahead of potentially scary news.
“Scars are cool. I hate to mess with this beautiful face,” Hogan said.
Hogan’s five-month battle with sometimes fatal lymphoma in 2015 has shed him of the thick head of white hair he had carried for much of his life. The chemotherapy and the steroids to counteract some of its effects had left him bald and 40 pounds overweight.
He’s lost most of the weight, but his hair has only returned as uneven stubble.
Millions of people have growths removed from their faces and tested for cancer, including this writer and, for many, like me, the growths are benign. For others, the skin lesions are cancerous, but not the potentially lethal melanoma.
The vanity of youth
Hogan’s explanation of how he got the skin cancer was a reminder of how normal this governor comes across.
As a young man, Hogan was a lifeguard at the Daytona Hilton in Florida.
“I wanted to look good with a dark tan so I never put sunscreen on,” Hogan said, confessing to the vanity of youth.
That has left him “with lots of sun spot damage,” and he goes to the dermatologist every six months.
“Please pay attention when they tell you to use sunscreen,” Hogan counseled, using his disease as a teaching moment. He also praised a bill by Sen. Ron Young to allow school children to bring sunscreen to school, even though the Frederick County Democrat is one of several senators being targeted for defeat by the GOP.
Some school systems are demanding a doctor’s notes to allow kids to use the sunblocker and “that’s just crazy,” said Hogan.
Quarterly PET scans
Seeing everything through the prism of partisan politics, some Democrats see Hogan referencing his battles with cancer as a political ploy for sympathy. But if looking in the mirror everyday is not enough reminder of how lymphoma and the saving chemo has changed his life and his view of it, “Every 90 days I have a full body PET scan,” Hogan said.
A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is an imaging test that uses a dye with radioactive tracers injected into a vein in the arm, allowing doctors to check for a return of Hogan’s lymphoma.
“I’m completely done with that previous cancer,” Hogan said.
He again joked, “I’m going to have some stitches and it won’t be the result of Miller or Busch getting the best of me,” said Hogan, referring to the Democratic leaders of the Senate and House.
Not in a fighting mood
Despite his references to scars and stitches, Hogan was not in a fighting mood on several issues.
Asked about the bills offering different approaches to solving the increase in state taxes for 28% of Maryland taxpayers under the recently passed federal tax changes, Hogan said, “We’re willing to consider any of them.”
“We came up with what we thought was the simplest way to address it,” Hogan said. He has proposed allowing Marylanders to itemize their deductions on their state returns, even if they now take the much larger standard deduction on their federal returns.
The legislation to permit that, dubbed the Protecting Maryland Taxpayers Act, is just being introduced today. The Democratic alternative, sponsored by all 47 senators, including the 14 Republicans, passed a preliminary vote on Friday. It will allow taxpayers to continue to take personal exemptions even as they are phased out on the federal return.
Republican senators last week also proposed reducing Maryland tax rates as another alternative, though Democrats see that as taking a shot at the high state and local income taxes.
“There’s no pride of authorship,” Hogan said Thursday. “Our basic premise is that we do not want taxes to go up on Marylanders.”
Supports the gambling lockbox
Hogan was his usual combative self on the WBAL Radio’s C4 show Friday morning, refuting Democratic charges that he was not funding education properly.
But he turned conciliatory again when asked about a Democratic plan to put all $500 million of casino gambling revenue earmarked for education into a “lockbox.”
“It’s not a bad idea,” Hogan said. “This can be done by statute,” rather than the constitutional amendment that will put the question to voters in November — without the governor’s approval.
“If they want to make that change, I’m all for it,” Hogan said.