By: Stephen Neukam
ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan, R, announced Tuesday that he will not run for the U.S. Senate, ending the Republican Party’s best chance of flipping the seat now held by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
His surprise announcement at the end of a press conference touting the state’s continued recovery from the omicron variant put to bed two years of speculation of a Hogan candidacy after a campaign by national GOP leaders to lure him into the race.
“When I pledged to the people of Maryland that I was going to give this job as governor everything I’ve got every single day that I’m given, I meant it,” said Hogan, whose final term ends January 2023. “And that commitment is far more important to me than any political campaign.”
The decision is a blow to Republican chances to win the seat in November. The Senate is currently split 50-50 between the two parties, but Vice President Kamala Harris, D, casts the deciding vote in a legislative tie.
Hogan said he informed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, and other Republican leaders of his decision Tuesday morning.
“He would have been a great candidate for the Senate,” McConnell said at an unrelated press conference in Washington on Tuesday. “He has been a terrific governor, but looking to November, let’s keep our eye on the ball. The president’s got a disastrous approval rating.”
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the party’s Senate fundraising arm, released a statement shortly after Hogan’s announcement.
“Senate Republicans are suffering a series of humiliating recruitment failures because their potential candidates know they cannot defeat strong Senate Democrats.”
The Maryland Democratic Party said in a separate statement it was focused “on getting Democrats elected, not Gov. Hogan’s future endeavors.”
“However, we do hope that now he will find more time in his schedule of appearing on cable news shows to do his job,” Maryland Democratic Party Executive Director Eva Lewis said in the statement. “Every day, Marylanders are faced with the consequences of his underfunded and understaffed government agencies.”
A potential electoral showdown between Hogan and Van Hollen had been teased for months.
Hogan, a moderate Republican in an overwhelmingly blue state, has remained popular among Maryland voters. A poll by Gonzales Research and Media Services in early January showed him with a 74% approval rating.
A late 2020 poll from Maryland Matters and Change Research gave Hogan a 16-point advantage over Van Hollen.
Van Hollen can “rest easy and get a good night’s sleep tonight,” Hogan joked at the press conference.
But the Maryland seat currently is rated “solid Democratic” by Inside Elections, the Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball.
Van Hollen’s campaign spokesman, Keith Presley, told the Capital News Service the senator was not concerned about a possible Hogan candidacy.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee remained confident in its ability to flip the Senate in November.
“The fact that Democrats were worried about a race in Maryland says everything you need to know about their chances of holding the Senate this cycle,” the organization said in a statement after Hogan’s announcement.
An America United, Hogan’s nonprofit political organization, raised just over $450,000 between 2019 and 2020. In 2021, it saw fundraising skyrocket to between $3 million and $4 million according to the organization’s Executive Director David Weinman.
Hogan said though he will not run for the Senate, it does not mean he will be politically inactive.
“This does not mean that I plan to sit on the sidelines when it comes to the serious challenges facing our country and our democracy,” he said. “I’m going to continue to call it like I see it, and I’ll keep speaking out about the divisiveness and dysfunction in Washington, and about fixing the broken politics.”
Hogan, who has been mentioned as a candidate for president in 2024 and has gained a national profile as governor, did not rule out a run for the presidency in two years.
“I think the world’s going to be a different place a year from now and in the meantime,” Hogan said. “I’m not going to do a lot of thinking about that.”
Hogan said that his decision to challenge for the Oval Office in 2024 will not be dictated by whether former President Donald Trump runs for a second term.
“I wouldn’t care whether the former president runs or not,” Hogan said.
Logan Hill, Kaitlyn Levinson and Vanessa G. Sanchez also contributed to this story.