When Larry Hogan is sworn into office, he will become the first Maryland governor in more than 150 years with no prior experience in elected office. Yet Hogan, 58, is no novice. He is benefiting from a lifetime learning politics at close range.
He learned ambition from his father, a Republican congressman and county executive who 40 years ago also made a bid for the governor’s mansion that didn’t turn out so well. Hogan learned hardball politics from the Prince Georges County Democrats who ran Maryland’s last political machine.
And as patronage chief for Maryland’s most recent Republican governor, Robert L. Ehrlich, he learned that power-sharing doesn’t come naturally in this winner-take-all state.
During an interview at his campaign headquarters, Hogan acknowledged the apparent contradiction between who he is and how he may be viewed by the great mass of Marylanders just tuning in. “I’ve been through this before, and have been around government and politics my entire life,” he said. But he added, “I think the reason I was elected was because I was not a career politician and that I had not held elected office and they were looking for a change of direction.” By all indications, the major influence in the new governor’s life is Lawrence J. Hogan, Sr., a former FBI agent and PR guy who beat the odds in 1968 to win a congressional seat from Prince Georges County as a Republican. What followed were big wins and bad losses.
Hogan senior was defeated in his 1974 bid for governor by Republicans protesting his vote on the House Judiciary Committee to impeach Richard Nixon. But he didn’t give up politics. By 1978, he bested the overwhelming Democratic majority to seize the post of Prince Georges County executive. The elder Hogan confided on the night his son won the GOP gubernatorial primary that he had cautioned him against making the race—for fear of failure. But no one was more visibly exultant at Larry Junior’s victory on election night in November. “It was very hard for me,” the son recalled. “He came hobbling across the stage and kissed me on the cheek while I’m in the middle of my speech and my eyes teared up and my throat choked up and I was like, I’ve got to hold it together here, I’m going to start crying.”
Former Democratic state Delegate Timothy Maloney, a high school buddy and later roommate of Hogan’s, said Larry got his first taste of politics in divided government as a top aide to his father--a job that he clearly loved. “He’s very successful in business, but you could always tell he wanted to do more in terms of public service,” Maloney said. “There’s a lot of business people who are satisfied with making a lot of money and being very successful. But I think Larry’s always had this hunger to serve.” As 24-year-old roommates, the Democratic state legislator and the Republican son of the county executive, joined forces in 1980 to campaign for a referendum change to the county charter that would make it easier to challenge machine candidates for the county council.
“We did break up the old line machine,” Hogan said, smiling at the memory. “So I’ve always been about challenging the status quo, always been about trying to bring checks and balances and reform, and always been about bipartisanship." And yet one of Hogan’s longest—if not closest—relationships is with Congressman Steny Hoyer. The House Democratic Whip was president of the Maryland Senate during the seventies and a leader of the Democratic organization—he rejects the term machine—that once had a lock on Prince Georges County political jobs. “Steny is a good guy,” Hogan said. “I’ve known him for a long time but he and I don’t philosophically agree on a lot of things.”
Hogan challenged Hoyer twice for his congressional seat, giving him his closest brush with defeat in a 1994 race with a radically redrawn district. Yet, as owner of a real estate business, the Republican was a longtime regular at Hoyer’s annual birthday party fundraisers. “I don’t know if it was every year. I went a couple of times,” Hogan recalled with a guilty laugh. “You know Steny had a heck of a party in Prince Georges County and every year it was the biggest event. I was in business and you know we’d stop by to do business with all the folks who were there.”
Hoyer, who has had plenty of experience with partisan discord in his congressional post, praised Hogan’s efforts so far to strike an ecumenical tone. “I think in the world of alternatives that’s the only alternative he has if he wants to be successful,” Hoyer said during an interview at a restaurant in Prince Frederick. “He’s going to have to deal with a Democratic Board of Public Works, going to have to deal with a Democratic legislature and a Democratic congressional delegation. So, do to otherwise would not be very productive.”
Larry’s step-brother Patrick Hogan, who served two terms in the House of Delegates before returning full time this month to his own real estate career, allowed as how there might be a yen for public service in the blood. “Obviously, we are a political family,” Patrick Hogan observed. “We’ve been involved for decades at various levels….and several different family members have been involved in politics.
And if those aren’t enough longtime political connections, add Senate President Mike Miller--who along with House Speaker Mike Busch--can make or break the Hogan administration. Miller was the driver in 1962 for a Republican gubernatorial candidate backed by Larry Hogan senior.
The reception Miller accorded the governor-elect during his visit to the Senate on last week’s opening day could hardly have been warmer. “I’ve known this gentleman’s family and himself for over 50 years,” Miller told his colleagues after they greeted Hogan with thunderous applause. “He’s honest, he’s hardworking, and I promise that we are going to work together across the aisle—coming together, staying together, working together.” Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. But it seemed like a good sign when Hogan privately greeted Miller on the Senate rostrum with the observation that they were wearing the same suit.