Hogan's stealth "centrist" posture won't stand the light of day

Larry Hogan is being portrayed as a sunny "centrist" running against a "dangerous, risky" radical in Ben Jealous. The picture is wrong: Hogan's business-aligned administration has made working families his collateral damage. And Jealous is neither risky or dangerous.


 

/By Woody Woodruff<>PM BlogSpace Report/ Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is running as a good-guy centrist facing a “dangerous” radical (Democratic candidate Ben Jealous). Hogan is no centrist; Jealous is a non-dangerous radical bringing a Bernie Sanders platform to Maryland, where some of Bernie’s best 2016 primary numbers came in parts of the state that subsequently went for Trump.

Two things Marylanders need to know in order to expand the electorate so that Jealous gets the necessary traction to beat Hogan: Hogan is no centrist, and the establishment Democrats to whom Hogan is appealing with his bogus “centrist cloaking device” themselves need to be slapped into shape after years of living off the table scraps of Maryland’s business interests.

The “Democrats for Hogan” noted in the WaPo article of July 13 are, as the lede rightly announced, mostly older white men. Disclosure: so is this writer. And the Ben Jealous campaign is rightly quoted about their low relevance to today’s post-Bernie, #neverTrump Maryland Democrats, who will realign behind Jealous after a tough primary.

 The geography of the endorsements, map-wise and mentally, is also telling; the Dems are from regions like the Shore, Western Maryland and Anne Arundel and Carroll counties where party allegiance has been and remains fluid (take Anne Arundel’s Bob Neall, who has been both D and R in his time). Mickey Steinberg was lieutenant governor to William Donald Schaefer, a hybrid “bipartisan” showman, a Trump before Trump.

Two factors need a closer look. First, the “Democrats for Hogan” are the tip of a rotten iceberg – the state’s Democrats are riddled with business-entangled elected types, including local central committees, slow to warm up to Jealous.

Second, Hogan’s unfathomable popularity masks an administration that is custom-designed to cater, as well, to the business community for whom party is very, very second to money. Working families, including those who are currently ambivalent about Hogan, are collateral damage from this relationship and will become aware of that as the campaign goes on.

Hogan, an official enabler for Bob Ehrlich as his staff secretary back in the day, had his pick of Ehrlich retreads to populate his own satrapies and took advantage of it. And while Larry the Smilin’ Survivor fronted a sunny-day regime for a state still riding the Obama economic boom, a distinctly pro-business bias suffused the most powerful and consequential departments, emphatically including the Maryland Department of the Environment. MDE’s smooth-talking honcho Ben Grumbles, a rare import without Ehrlich ties, has nevertheless presided over significant rollbacks on pollution and carbon controls, for which the parents of asthmatic children can thank him.

Hogan has had to be overridden by the Assembly several times in his vetoes of measures that aim to increase the state’s commitment to renewable energy sources – including the jobs that would ensue.

Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, who ought to have slunk away from the transportation department after getting nailed on several ethical counts in re Hogan highway contracts, shamelessly hangs on to push Hogan’s agenda of more roads and less mass transit.  Hogan’s touted “public-private partnership” that would add toll lanes to I-495 and I-270 is a complete shuck that state taxpayers will wind up paying for after the private sector has taken the money and vanished over the horizon – as history shows often happens. Community groups are pushing back on that misbegotten scheme in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Hogan has struggled with the General Assembly over education funding throughout his term, low-balling the state contribution and forcing the legislature to dip into other pots of money to supplement the shortfall. The outcome of the Kirwan Commission’s deep dive into education – funding and quality -- will probably not speak well of Hogan’s touted stewardship of the state’s education progress.

Local governments around the state have reason to remember the way Hogan’s stacking of regulatory commissions and other bodies has coddled big business and stymied local planning. His appointments to the Public Service Commission rubber-stamped the merger of Exelon and state power companies, meaning local ratepayers will probably wind up paying for the outrageously expensive decommissioning of Exelon’s aged-out nuclear plants. And the new Prince George’s hospital’s ability to serve a broad swathe of the public was severely crippled by one Hogan appointee to a health care regulatory commission, carrying out the mandate of the Heritage Foundation from whence he came.

When Larry Hogan was running for governor, he liked to refer to himself as “just a small businessman.”

That “small” business he founded — the Annapolis-based Hogan Companies — has completed more than $2 billion in real estate deals since its founding in 1985 and has continued to thrive since Hogan took office in 2015.

3_amigos.jpgAnd speaking of Democrats for Hogan, the Guv has more than a few stealth enablers in high places in the state Democratic establishment. Early in Hogan’s first term, for instance, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch torpedoed a progressive measure in the Assembly that would have created a commission to refashion the state’s economy to reduce dependence on Pentagon spending and jump aboard the post-carbon future.

Instead, the Two Mikes peremptorily created a pro-business commission headed by the retired CEO of Lockheed, no less, to find ways to make Maryland more business-friendly – aping Hogan’s rhetoric. Many of the Augustine Commission recommendations were then duly turned into law by those same Two Mikes, privileging business interests over the interests of working families.

By contrast, the long struggle to pass paid sick leave for Maryland’s 700,000 uncovered workers – again, bringing a veto this year that sparked a tough but successful override fight – took at least five years to get out of the Assembly, where pro-business Democrats sandbagged it year after year. Nor does Hogan’s level of attention to the state’s opioid addiction crisis seem to match the need either, as “The number of drug- and alcohol-related deaths in Maryland soared to an all-time high of 2,282 last year as the state continued to struggle with an opioid addiction problem that has gripped the entire country.”

Hogan’s squandering of the chance to make the state genuinely business-friendly – meaning a healthy and well-educated population and well-paid workforce with well-managed public provision in transportation, housing and environment -- shows up in CNBC’s low rating of the state’s business environment because of major infrastructure deficits.

 It would not be entirely a surprise that many Maryland Democrats, existentially tight with corporations and business interests, might stay quiet on the sidelines in a tilt between Hogan and a progressive champion like Ben Jealous. They might be surprised how that would affect their own re-election chances in the post-Bernie environment.

Between his cheery front-man stance and his centrist (including Democratic) enablers, Hogan indeed seems to have what McDaniel College professor of politics Herb Smith described to your reporters as “a cloaking device or something.” The real Hogan, supportive corporate-entangled Democrats and all, is distinctly under the political radar.

Activists all over the state plan to make sure he does not stay cloaked.


A different version of this article appeared in the Washington Post Local Opinions section Sunday, July 29. Woody Woodruff is the volunteer moderator of the PM BlogSpace.