GOP gubernatorial hopeful Hogan says he’ll participate in Md. public financing system


Larry Hogan, a Maryland Republican gubernatorial candidate, speaks to supporters during a campaign rally on Jan. 29. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

Maryland Republican gubernatorial hopeful Larry Hogan said Monday that he will participate in the state’s public-financing system, becoming the second candidate this year to agree to limit spending during the primaries in exchange for access to matching funds.

Hogan, a cabinet secretary under former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), made the announcement as he and his new running mate, Boyd Rutherford, filed the official paperwork required to become candidates at the State Board of Elections in Annapolis.

Candidates who agree to participate in Maryland’s little-utilized public-financing system must limit spending during the primary season to about $2.6 million. In return, the state agrees to match contributions from individuals up to $250.

Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery) announced in December that she would abide by those rules in her primary against two better-known and better-financed Democratic candidates for governor.

Hogan said that the “matching funds level the playing field for grassroots campaigns like ours and enable us to compete with the out-of-touch monopoly in Annapolis.”

In all likelihood, however, his decision won’t handicap his spending compared to other hopefuls in the GOP primary.

Last month, before Hogan announced his candidacy, three other Republican contenders, all of whom have been running for governor for months, reported modest bank accounts.

Harford County Executive David R. Craig, who has been touted as a leading Republican candidate, had less than $183,000 available for his campaign.

Meanwhile, Del. Ronald A. George (R-Anne Arundel) reported cash on hand of only about $15,000, while Charles County businessman Charles Lollar reported less than $6,000 in the bank.

By comparison, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, the two leading Democrats, reported cash on hand of about $7.1 million and $6.3 million, respectively.

Under Maryland’s public-financing system, candidates must raise close to $260,000 in “seed money,” in increments of $250 or less, before they become eligible to receive public matching funds in the primaries.

Hogan, an Annapolis real-estate broker, did not commit Monday to participating in the system in the general election if he becomes the GOP nominee.

The last time candidates for governor in Maryland accepted public money was in 1994, when two Democrats and a Republican agreed to the terms of the system.

The money helped the Republican, Ellen R. Sauerbrey, prevail against the front-runner in the GOP primary. And in the general election, Sauerbrey nearly defeated Democrat Parris N. Glendening, who did not agree to the spending cap and greatly outspent her.

Since then, Maryland’s public-financing system has been shunned by gubernatorial candidates from both parties.

Hogan served as appointments secretary under Ehrlich, a position responsible for filling administration jobs and slots on state boards and commissions. Rutherford, a Howard County resident, was Ehrlich’s general services secretary. He later served in the administration of President George W. Bush.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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