A week before he will formally launch his campaign for a second term, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) ventured to deep-blue Montgomery County on Sunday to demonstrate his popularity in the state’s Asian American community.
“Four more years,” a crowd of about 700 chanted at the New Fortune restaurant in Gaithersburg before Hogan took the stage.
Attendees praised both the governor and his wife, Yumi, a Korean immigrant, for their outreach to Asian Americans, who they said are coalescing behind Hogan as he attempts to become the first Republican governor reelected in Maryland since 1954.
“From the very start of our administration, increasing engagement with the Asian community has been a key part of our efforts,” Hogan said in a speech, noting that his first overseas trade mission was to Asia. “I simply cannot overstate the significance of the Asian American community to our state.”
Yumi Hogan, an accomplished abstract artist who grew up in South Korea, is Maryland’s first Asian American first lady and the first Korean gubernatorial first lady in the United States.
Since Hogan took office in 2015, she has hosted a delegation from South Korea at the governor’s mansion, served her own kimchi at a celebration of the Lunar New Year and wowed guests at a cookout with her traditional Korean cooking.
“We are all Asian — south Asian, east Asian — there are so many different backgrounds,” Yumi Hogan said, looking at the audience feasting on dumplings and General Tso’s chicken. “Most are Democrats . . . Republicans and Democrats are working together.”
Hogan, who has a 69 percent approval rating, also campaigned in Annapolis and Hagerstown over the weekend. He seems determined to stay visible to voters this month, as a crowded field of Democrats prepares to compete in the June 26 primary for the chance to run against him.
The governor has accumulated a $9 million war chest, far surpassing any of the Democrats hopefuls. He is unopposed in the primary but released his first television advertisement last week, part of a $1.3 million advertising blitz.
On Sunday night, he greeted every table at New Fortune restaurant and said he was honored to have been embraced by the Asian community during his 2014 campaign.
His official reelection campaign kickoff is Saturday, but he said the Asian American community is “so important to us, and you have been so supportive of us, that we decided to do this event with all of you one week before the official kickoff.”
In the audience, Corinna Shen, a Chinese American small-business owner who Hogan selected to be on Maryland’s Commission for Women, clapped enthusiastically. She said Hogan is the first candidate she has seen Maryland’s Asian American community rally behind to such a large extent.
“They really want to get involved,” said Shen, who is a Republican and hosted fundraisers for Hogan four years ago. “I’m very proud.”
Next to her, Haiwen Mackleer, the branch manager of a Rockville bank, nodded her head in agreement. Mackleer, who is also of Chinese descent and identifies as a political independent, said the Asian community has been drawn to Hogan because of his pro-business policies.
“When he says ‘Maryland is open for business,’ he means it,” she said. Looking at the sea of tables behind her, she added: “I think he’s going to win.”