A spokesman for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Thursday that the governor still has no plans to endorse a Republican presidential hopeful, with billionaire Donald Trump the only candidate left in a once-crowded field.
The departures from the race this week of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have not changed the position that Hogan articulated in a news conference Friday, said spokesman Doug Mayer.
“I said I was not going to get involved, and I would not endorse any candidate and that I was going to stay focused on Maryland,” Hogan, a popular Republican in a strongly Democratic state, told reporters. “And I’m not going to take any more stupid questions about Donald Trump.”
On Wednesday, the Democratic Governors Association tagged Hogan as part of the “Silent 9,” a group of Republican governors it says have refused to say whether they will support Trump. The label is the latest attempt by Democrats to try to force uncommitted Republicans to take a stance on the controversial presumptive nominee.
Hogan did not address the issue Thursday during an appearance at a National Day of Prayer breakfast at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, speaking instead about his recent battle with cancer.
But his deputy, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R), said in an interview that he would not be backing Trump, who easily won the state’s April 26 primary.
“I’m not going to endorse him,” Rutherford said. “He’s not my choice at all.”
Other prominent Maryland Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Andy Harris and state House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga, who is a U.S. Senate candidate, have said they plan to support the Republican presidential nominee.
Hogan waded into the bitter Republican primary contest early, endorsing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a close friend. In February, after Christie dropped out and became one of the first establishment Republicans to support Trump, Hogan was inundated with questions about whether he would follow suit. He responded that he was “completely disgusted with national politics in both parties, Democrats and Republicans,” and had no plans to endorse any candidate.
But as Trump continued to pile up wins, Democrats continued to push the Republican governor.
U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) paid for a mobile anti-Trump billboard to circle the Maryland State House in March. One side asked: “Will you support Trump as the Republican nominee?” The other side said: “Because everyone in Maryland will lose if Trump wins.”
The other elected officials that the Democratic Governors Association identified among the “silent 9” are Kasich, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
Sandoval has said he plans to vote for Trump even though he disagrees with him on some issues.
Democrats have accused Trump of promoting discrimination, particularly with his comments about illegal immigrants, Muslim refugees and women. But Rutherford, an African American, didn’t comment on the Republican front-runner’s morals Thursday, instead criticizing him for not detailing how he plans to fulfill his promises.
“I’ve never heard how he’s going to do these things he says he’s going to do,” the lieutenant governor said. “Saying ‘just believe me’ and ‘trust me’ doesn’t work for me.”
At the prayer breakfast, Hogan grew emotional as he talked about the role faith played during his battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“Prayer and my faith in God helped me understand that I would never be alone,” Hogan told the audience of about 100 people in a conference room at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. “Amazingly, it wasn’t just my prayers, but thousands of prayers from friends and family, from many of you in this room, and from countless people all across the state, across the country and even from around the world.”