Well, it wasn’t something I was proactively doing. There were a number of people in my party, and people outside the party, frankly, coming to me saying, “Would you consider it?” Because people are concerned — and I’m concerned — that the Republican Party is shrinking its appeal and its base down to a smaller and smaller group of only, you know, white males in a certain demographic. They’re not trying to be the bigger tent that I would like to see. And they’re getting away from traditional Republican values. I won in a landslide in a very blue state in a very blue year, with a huge blue wave. We won the suburban women vote overwhelmingly, where most in my party did not. We got nearly a third of the African American vote, when my party usually does not. So they said, we need to find out what he’s doing differently.
I looked at it seriously. But the realities were, I just was reelected in a state that I promised 6 million people I was going to represent, and I was about to be sworn in as the chairman of the [National Governors Association]. This was an enormous undertaking with, quite frankly, little chance of success. Because while a majority of people agree with the way I think and the message, it doesn’t equate to a majority of Republican primary voters in the system that we have set up. I think that President Trump has a pretty solid lock on those base voters.
Your father [Lawrence J. Hogan Sr.], as a congressman, was the first Republican to [call] for the impeachment of Richard Nixon. With talk of impeachment of the current president, how much do you think about that?
I think about it a lot. My dad was my hero, probably the person I looked up to the most. I guess I was 12 when my dad got elected to Congress. I was in high school at the time the Watergate impeachment proceedings were taking place. He was on the House Judiciary Committee that was hearing this case. He wasn’t a guy who was just negative against the president; he was a Republican who had run with the president, a former FBI agent and lawyer. And he had to make a tough decision that was momentous for the nation. After seeing all the evidence, he thought the president was guilty of impeachable offenses. He was the very first Republican to say so. And the only Republican in the entire Congress to vote for all three articles of impeachment.
That was a tough thing to do at the time. It cost him dearly among his colleagues and the party apparatus; the White House, obviously, was furious. It was pretty much the end of his political career. Years later, they looked at him as a hero who had the courage to stand up and do what he thought was right. But it was not an easy thing. And we don’t have a lot of people willing to make those kinds of decisions today.
You have been frank about your opinions and have broken with the party at times.
When I agree, I say I agree. And when I disagree, I'm perfectly comfortable saying that. Sometimes it will be a different position than others in my party, sometimes a different position than, say, the president.
How do you feel about where the Republican Party is now?
I’m concerned about where we are as a nation. And as a lifelong Republican, I’m concerned about the direction and future of the party. I don’t believe that this is going to permanently alter [the party]; I think we’re going to return to a more Reagan-esque Republican Party, more positive, more welcoming, more open, more of a big-tent party, and one that will stand up for our allies. I just think we’re off track.
But you were saying probably not this next election?
I really don’t know what’s going to happen in this election. It’s either going to be next year or four years from now, but at some point, there’s no longer going to be a Donald Trump Party. There’s going to be a Republican Party. You know, I’m not sure what, if any, future I have in the Republican Party, but I do care about a future for the Republican Party.
As a Republican governor twice elected by an overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning state, you’re seen as a “moderate.” Is that a term you identify with?
I am a moderate. I've been focused on trying to avoid the extremes of either party. And to find ways to get Republicans and Democrats to lower the temperature and stop the arguing and the divisive, angry politics. Trying to find bipartisan common-sense solutions is why I was elected governor in a state that only is 26 percent Republican. Because a huge percentage of Democrats and a majority of independents thought I would be a good governor and work across the aisle. Then I was overwhelmingly reelected by 14 points in a state Hillary Clinton won by 26. People were able to look beyond the party labels and say, "Is this a person that cares about this state? Is he someone that can bring us together rather than divide us?"
Is that just sort of your natural instinct?
Maybe my nature. But in my business career, I was primarily in the real estate brokerage business. So my job for 30 years was to bring people together. If I didn't find ways to bring people together, I would have starved. [Laughs.] And the only way was by compromise. Not everybody's going to get everything they want, but we're going to find a way to make everybody happy. And that's been very transferrable.
In trying to learn the state better to make sure everybody feels — and is — represented, what was new to you and maybe helped change the way you think about things?
Even though I grew up in pretty poor neighborhoods in Prince George's County, inner-city urban Baltimore was a new experience for me. When I was running for governor, Boyd Rutherford, my lieutenant governor, and I, we went into most neighborhoods throughout Baltimore City. We went into communities where people were somewhat surprised, if not shocked, to see us there. At first, there was a little bit of resistance, a little bit of, "What are you doing here? Aren't you Republicans?" [Laughs.] So I walked the streets, and I talked with people, and I heard about things that they cared about.
A perfect example is a place called Walbrook Junction, a pretty difficult neighborhood faced with a lot of issues. There were blocks and blocks [that were] really dilapidated, dangerous. They were a hotbed for crime, drugs. It was blight everywhere. And over and over again, the people in the community said: "Somebody needs to do something about this. It's been like this for 30 years." I said, "If I get elected governor, I promise you, we're going to try to do something about this." And so, we invested $100 million to clear some of the blighted properties.
And, you know, during the unrest of the riots in Baltimore, I spent the entire week walking the streets and talking to people and trying to lower the temperature. I went to Freddie Gray's neighborhood and talked to the people there. Some of it was the actual commanding of the crisis and the thousands of people involved, and some of it was being the face of "Hey, we care, and we're here to help." Thanking the police officers and firefighters, National Guardsmen, and talking to the people in neighborhoods about their concerns. I showed up that night as the city was on fire, and I was there the next morning as the sun came up. People thanked me for being there. And I wasn't a stranger when I showed up.
Do you have advice you live by?
Be willing to sit down with people you don't agree with. Even when it's hard. Just because someone disagrees with you, they shouldn't be your enemy.