When Larry Hogan was elected governor of Maryland last fall, it easily ranked as the biggest surprise of the midterm elections. Even in a bad year for Democrats, a Republican who never previously held elected office was not supposed to triumph over a promising young Democrat in a state Obama won twice by twenty-six points.
The son of a former Congressman and owner of a large real-estate business, Hogan projected himself as fiscal conservative during his race against Lt. Governor Anthony Brown—but also a moderate. His preamble to running for governor was forming Change Maryland, a proudly “non-partisan grassroots organization.”
Hogan has a friendly everyman persona that has earned him some pretty favorable coverage in local papers. (Some recent headlines from the neighboring Washington Post: “Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s appeal to ‘middle ground’ could revive state GOP” and “Md. Gov. Larry Hogan, the happiest, sweatiest guy at the inaugural ball.”)
But Hogan’s first days in office are proving to be anything but moderate. Rather, a familiar storyline is playing out: the friendly Republican gubernatorial candidate suddenly becomes a hardline conservative governor.
After being introduced by New Jersey Chris Christie at his inauguration Wednesday as someone “who knows how to bring people together,” and after the VIP guests dined on shrimp scampi, crab cakes and grilled chicken, Hogan got to work: he immediately rescinded blockbuster environmental regulations on state coal plants and pollution of the Chesapeake Bay. He also called back regulations designed to protect LGBT Marylanders from healthcare and employment discrimination.
Hogan signaled more regulatory rollbacks are to come, and starting floating budget cuts that have troubled education and healthcare advocates along with state employees. The full budget isn’t out yet, but a Republican ally of Hogan in the state legislature told the Baltimore Sun, “Everyone is going to feel some pain, that’s my sneak preview.”
Hogan “delaying” the Chesapeake Bay protections was the most predictable move, though perhaps not with the speed and totality with which he did it. “We were quite disappointed, because it happened four hours after he was inaugurated,” Dawn Stoltzfus, coordinator of the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition, told The Nation. “It was shocking in that regard.”