Untouched by the mid-August torpor or the stormy politics they helped install in Upper Marlboro, the loyal followers of Lawrence Hogan -- shirt-sleeved, predominantly middle-aged and outspoken -- turned out at Rosecroft Raceway yesterday to cheer Prince George's County's most popular Republican.
Hogan rented the race track's cavernous betting hall and supplied hot dogs, beer and pony rides for what he called the "Larry Hogan Family Picnic" an affair intended, he said, "to keep alive the friendships and camaraderie of the campaign."
Only about 275 of the 500 invited contributors and supporters bought the $10 admission tickets and even fewer attended.
"This is the Republican 200 that shows up at every one of these affairs," said Tim Maloney, a Democratic state legislator who works at Rosecroft. "We get more people out here when it snows."
But the precinct workers, unsuccessful Republican candidates and old Hogan friends who mingled around the ticket windows and picnic tables seemed convinced that Hogan's performance in office had more than satisfied the voters who elected him.
"The county's running beautifully and he's not spending money," said Robert L'Heureux, of Camp Springs Forest, a longtime Hogan supporter. "He hasn't been pussyfooting around. Just because he's not making friends, it doesn't mean that he's not doing what he promised."
"He's a crackerjack administrator," said Walter Zadoretzky of Accokeek. "Let's face it. Anybody who can keep the county government on an even keel without too much turbulence is doing fine."
For their $10 ticket fees, Hogan's supporters were given a chance to chat with their leader and his close circle of advisers, and to win door prizes of letter openers, vodka and unisex haircuts.
Hogan even hinted at bigger prizes. "Don't hesitate to write in or call with advice," he told the crowd. "If you want, we still have a lot of board and commission vacancies, and, well, if you have any suggestions, let us know."
The county's political movers, by Hogan's admission, were not there to hear him. "There weren't any fat-cat types," he said. "This is for regular campaign workers. They complain if we don't have get-togethers."
One exception was Gerard Holcomb, one of Hogan's closest political advisers. "This is a nice thing," Holcomb said. "Of course, it's only a $10 thing, but it's always nice to do."
Hogan, Holcomb said, needed to improve his public image. "He's done fair so far, but not well," said banker Holcomb."I think he's done some really good things, trimming back the budget and implementing programs, but he has not done a good job getting his accomplishments across. His public perception could be much better."
But neither Holcomb nor other Hogan friends were troubled by recent publicity surrounding the executive's support for a business represented by his wife and a landfill site owned by his friend and former business associate, John Lyons.
"I talked to (Hogan) about it Friday and he's gotten two letters about it," said Holcomb."It's not bothering him."
"From the outside, it all looks like a spitting contest," said Howard Denis, a Republican legislator from Montgomery County who stopped by. "I read every day about Larry in some controversy, but name recognition is the coin of the realm. And Larry's no shrinking violet. He's not about to sit back and allow people to swing the ax at him."
"He's certainly doing better than Winnie Kelly (Hogan's Democratic predecessor)," concluded Kenneth Kein, a contractor who supports Hogan. "It seemed like taxes and social programs were running away. I think he's doing something about it."