On the national, regional and local front, Tuesday’s election was all about the Republican Party, which swept nearly all races of significances on many levels and particularly on the hyper-local front on the shore.
For only the second time in the last few decades, Maryland will have a Republican governor in Larry Hogan, who did what Bob Ehrlich did back in 2002. In convincing fashion, he defeated the sitting lieutenant governor, who was looking for a promotion to governor from the voters.
Hogan ran a masterful campaign, focusing on economic issues facing the state and largely staying positive and steering the call for major changes in Maryland. On occasion, he addressed Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s major blackeye — the fact he was in charge of the healthcare exchange, which flopped immediately after being opened to the public after major computer malfunctions. Hogan won while spending about half the amount of money Brown did on his campaign. It was an impressive win to be certain.
While there was obvious reason to celebrate on Tuesday night, Hogan would be wise to immediately get to work on consensus building. He will surely have the support of nearly all Republicans on key issues, but he will not be able to get anything changed or accomplished in the Democrat-dominated Maryland legislature without being able to sway some on the left to his side.
Hogan must have a reasonable relationship with Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch, the two most powerful men in Maryland. Through their political might, achieved through decades of service and leadership, Miller and Busch have been able to either usher the governor’s signature legislation through committee hearings and through their chambers in quick fashion, as was the case with O’Malley’s tenure, or doom measures behind the scenes at the committee level, as happened often from 2002-2006 during former Republican Ehrlich’s term.
During the Ehrlich years, relations were not healthy between the three government leadership arenas — the House, Senate and governor’s office. The result was a dysfunctional stalemate for much of the four-year term. Most of Ehrlich’s initiatives either stalled or were so watered down after being amended they lost their initial intentions.
Hogan knows all about this as he served in Ehrlich’s administration as Secretary of Appointments. Lt. Gov.-Elect Boyd Rutherford’s experience in a high-level position with the Bush administration could also be of assistance to Hogan. All too often the lieutenant governor holds little responsibility and Hogan would be wise to utilize Rutherford in a leadership and persuasive capacity.
The calls of change were heard and endorsed by a majority of Marylanders, and now is the time for the Republican leadership to carry out what was sought during the campaign. It will not happen with heavy-handed, extreme positions. It will take a mountain of cooperation, perspective and balance to bring about true tax reform and business climate change in Maryland. The seeds need to be planted now, a couple months ahead of January’s legislative session.