Correction: Earlier versions of this story misstated the percentage of Maryland registered voters who said in a recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll that they would support Gov. Larry Hogan if he ran for second term in 2018. Forty-one percent of registered voters said they would do so. The article has been corrected.
OCEAN CITY — Gov. Larry Hogan (R) told a group of county leaders here on Saturday that he signed an executive order to create a statewide land-use plan that, unlike a highly criticized development plan set by his predecessor, seeks input from local and county officials.
“As I have traveled across Maryland, local elected officials have repeatedly asked for a plan that better reflects the needs of our state,” Hogan said. “One that will improve coordination between state agencies and local governments, support thoughtful growth and infrastructure planning, stimulate economic development and revitalization in existing and planned communities.”
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who had not seen the details of the order, said Hogan has done “a very good job of reaching out and coordinating” with local officials.
“I look forward to seeing the details of what he is suggesting,” he said. “I think it’s a good step for all of us.”
Hogan’s speech capped off the Maryland Association of Counties’ summer conference, a four-day annual gathering of state and county officials where talk of the deadly violence in Charlottesville and the decision to remove the Roger B. Taney statue from the State House grounds in Annapolis largely overshadowed discussion of next year’s high-stakes gubernatorial race.
Candidates seeking the 2018 Democratic nomination for governor, many of whom are largely unknown throughout the state, made the rounds during the convention, meeting with potential donors and trying to connect with and build support from elected officials from across the state.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who is considering a bid for governor, was seen early Friday morning huddled in a booth at a local diner with U.S. Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D-Md). The site of the pair — Kamenetz a likely Hogan challenger and Brown the candidate who was upset by Hogan in 2014 — left many speculating about their discussion.
Was Kamenetz asking Brown for campaign advice on what not to do, one person joked.
Kamenetz said Saturday it was just two “old friends catching up.”
Rumors also swirled over the weekend after Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) was seen in what several described as an awkward, tense exchange with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) during a fundraiser for another senator. Earlier in the day, Madaleno criticized Miller on Facebook for defending Taney, the author of the infamous Dred Scott decision, and refusing to vote as a member of the Maryland State House Trust to remove the statue.
Several people said they thought the two were talking about the statue. Madaleno said Saturday that they were not.
Hogan, who spent some of his time answering media questions about his change of mind over the statue, was largely in campaign mode, using most of the time pressing palms, attending fundraisers and taking pictures.
While walking the boardwalk, flanked by about a dozen members of his staff, Hogan was stopped by Alexandro Bonilla, 36, of Clarksburg. Bonilla asked Hogan if he would take a picture with his family. “Very good job,” Bonilla repeated as he shook Hogan’s hand.
Bonilla, a Democrat, said he’s been impressed with the governor and could see himself voting for him. “We just need him to continue to work for the school system,” his wife interjected.
Many Democratic elected officials said the gubernatorial race, which includes candidates who range from veteran politicians to people who have never run for elected office, remains wide open. With 10 months until the June 2018 gubernatorial primary, they say they have yet to see a candidate move ahead of the pack.
Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery) said she is waiting to see which candidate shows an ability to raise money, to put together a strong operation, and to galvanize Democrats, independents and possibly even some Republicans.
Despite Hogan’s strong popularity, Democrats said they remain encouraged that they could win back the governor’s office.
A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll earlier this year found that support for Hogan’s reelection lags behind his approval ratings. Hogan held a 65 percent approval rating in March, but just 41percent of registered voters said they would support him for a second term and 37 percent said they preferred a Democrat.
“It’s clear that the right Democrat can beat Hogan, but it’s still unclear who the right Democrat is,” Del. Eric D. Luedtke (D-Montgomery) said.
Most of the Democratic candidates, who have officially launched their campaigns, attended the conference. They include: Madaleno, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, attorney Jim Shea, and tech entrepreneur Alec Ross.
Krishanti Vignarajah, a onetime policy director for former first lady Michelle Obama, and Ben Jealous, the former NAACP president, who held a fundraiser in New York City with David Chappelle on Friday night, did not attend.