Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., recently slimmed and without his customary mustache, stood before the podium in a hotel conference room yesterday and ticked off a list of issues that he hopes will dominate his campaign to fill the now vacant Prince George's County 5th District congressional seat.
For several minutes he spoke of the need to reduce the country's heavy tax burden, increase defense spending and deregulate industry. Then, after a second's hesitation, he brought up a more personal issue.
"There is one last point which, though minor, I feel should be addressed now," he said. "Yes, my name is Larry Hogan Jr. I am the son of Larry Hogan. My father, some of you may have heard of him, formerly held this seat in Congress for three terms and is now the [Prince George's] county executive. But to use an old political cliche, I am my own man and this is my campaign."
For the rest of the press conference, however, this "minor" item was all anyone asked about and Hogan had to fend off a series of questioners insinuating that it was his name, rather than an admittedly short resume, that made a 24-year-old political novice a serious candidate.
And therein lies the problem for Larry Hogan Jr., the son of the most famous and, in the last seven years, only successful Republican politician in Democratic Prince George's County.
Because of the name and the electoral successes of his father, the younger Hogan is considered the frontrunner to win the April 7 Republican primary and face a Democratic contender in the May 19 special election for Gladys N. Spellman's seat. But the family connection is a negative factor as well, prompting grumbling that his father put his "kid" up to it, that "Junior," as he is called, will merely be a rubber stamp, and that his only qualification is his name.
Here, after all, is someone less than three years out of Florida State University whose only experiences as a candidate were the two times he ran for delegate to the Republican National Convention and his election to the county's Republican Central Committee. His tenure in government service is only slightly more substantial -- a few months stint on Capitol Hill and then a job as his father's top aide.
In that post, he has become his father's spokesman and alter ego, taking charge of political appointments and dealing with municipal leaders. And in the two years since his father was elected, the younger Hogan has also become somewhat of an issue himself because of the job he was given, his often intemperate remarks, and, above all, because he is his controversial father's son.
"Being Larry Hogan Jr. is a double-edged sword," said Del. Timothy Maloney, a roommate and close friend of the younger Hogan. "He feels he'll never completely come of age because he'll always have the name and his father. If his name were Larry Maguire he wouldn't have all the media attention but he would be able to say he was his own man."
But while the family ties have provoked controversy that could affect the special election -- both he and his father have made some enemies over the years -- they have also given the younger Hogan more of a shot at winning the 5th District seat than any Republican has had since the older Hogan abandoned it in 1974 for his unsuccessful race for governor.
"I think that Larry Hogan, the name, is almost like magic in Prince George's County," said Maryland Republican Party Chairman Allan C. Levey. "That's a plus for Larry Hogan Jr. A lot of people will [go into the voting booth] and relate to Larry Hogan. That's an immediate name identification."
Not only will the name guarantee the younger Hogan some 1,500 to 2,000 votes in a primary that may be won by as little as 4,000 votes, but the family association has given Hogan Jr. access to his father's financial contributors list and experienced advisers, both of which are considered essential to winning the brief special election.
"Larry Hogan Jr. is part of the team," said longtime Hogan fundraiser Gerard Holcomb. "We're going to raise some dough for him, some early money, to show the Political Action Committees who only contribute to a winner that Larry Hogan can raise money quickly."
In order to emphasize that he will be his own man in this race, young Hogan said yesterday that although longtime supporters of his father will be working behind the scenes for him, the campaign will be run by his own people. His father will campaign for him, he said, but will otherwise keep a distance. In case the point was missed, Hogan pointed out that his father was unable to attend the press conference because he had county business to attend to some 10 miles away.