Richard Vatz, a professor of political persuasion at Towson University, used the word “Republican” more than a dozen times Thursday when he introduced Gov. Larry Hogan to address his class.
But Hogan — who is vying to become the second GOP governor in 60 years to win reelection in Maryland, a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1 — seemed eager to avoid the partisan label.
“Some of the things he said made me sound more partisan than I am,” Hogan told the audience of about 100 students as he took the microphone. “You said Republican this, Republican that. I’m the most bipartisan governor. I don’t even like to talk about parties.”
In a 40-minute discussion that moved from education to school safety to gerrymandering, Hogan repeatedly tried to distance himself from President Trump and Republicans in Congress.
“I’m a Republican, but I’m a pragmatic person looking for bipartisan solutions to problems facing our state,” he said. “I’m a moderate, somewhere right of center. I find that where I am on most things is where most Marylanders are.”
Mileah Kromer, a political science professor at Goucher College, said Hogan echoed a similar theme about a month ago when he appeared before a couple hundred students at that campus with Comptroller Peter Franchot (D).
“He referred to himself as an independent as many times as he could,” Kromer said.
Hogan also visited with college students recently at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
“Young people are disgusted with politics as usual, so that message of bipartisanship does play well to a younger crowd,” Kromer said. “The question is whether that will lead to higher voter turnouts.”
A poll by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics recently found that young people are more engaged this election cycle and more likely to vote in the 2018 elections.
Among voters under 30, 37 percent said they will “definitely be voting” in the midterm elections, compared with 23 percent who said the same thing in 2014, the poll found.
But a higher voter turnout would not necessarily bode well for a Republican because, according to the polls, young Democrats are the ones who are most enthused, with 51 percent of them saying they plan to vote in November.
A Goucher poll released in February found that 45 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 34 approve of the job the governor is doing, compared with 65 percent of voters of all ages.
“There are some inroads to be made,” Kromer said.
Before the discussion, several students said they knew little about Hogan but would not necessarily vote on a party line.
“It’s more about whether I agree with his views,” said Jake Rachel, 20, a Republican from Montgomery County. His seat mate, Morgan Osborne, 20, a Democrat from Prince George’s County, agreed.
Hogan spent Thursday morning in Prince George’s, where he toured a local business and attended an annual conference for crime victims, hosted by his administration.
At the conference, he touted some of the bills that he pushed and that were successful in the legislature this year, including a measure that imposes harsher sentences on repeat violent offenders and legislation that allows prosecutors to use evidence of past sexual crimes when trying accused sex offenders.
And he stressed that the legislation was supported by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
“All of these bipartisan measures will help to protect the most vulnerable among us, will improve services for victims of crime and will help us reduce and prevent the number of future victims of crime,” he said.
Hogan noted that the Democratic-majority legislature “failed to pass our felony human trafficking act. . . but we will push again next year to get this legislation passed.”