Maryland Gov.-elect Larry Hogan will be introduced at Wednesday’s inauguration by another blue-state Republican governor — New Jersey’s Chris Christie, whose enthusiastic embrace of Hogan during the campaign helped propel his underdog victory.
The men met through Russell J. Schriefer, a longtime Christie adviser who lives in Chevy Chase, Md., and was working as a consultant for Hogan.
“They’re two peas in pod, and they hit it off,” Schriefer said. “They immediately agreed that there were some of the same dynamics at play in Maryland that Christie had dealt with when he ran in 2009.”
Christie defeated Jon S. Corzine, a well-financed but unpopular Democratic governor. Hogan’s opponent was Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) — also flush with money, and also lackluster in the polls. “Nobody expected him to be elected in an overwhelmingly Democratic state,” Hogan said of Christie. “We sort of have that in common.”
Christie campaigned with Hogan four times, signaling to GOP donors across the country that the state was in play. Donations rolled in. Tom Ridge, the former Pennsylvania governor and U.S. homeland security secretary, headlined a fundraiser. Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, two of Christie’s potential 2016 competitors, wrote fundraising letters on Hogan’s behalf.
At one rally, Christie predicted a Hogan victory and mocked outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), Brown’s boss and mentor, who has White House dreams of his own. “Big, bad Marty O’Malley. Big, big taxing Marty O’Malley. Big spending Marty O’Malley. And in two days, big loser Marty O’Malley,” Christie told the cheering crowd.
Hogan says he tries to have “a little softer edge” than his friend from just up the interstate. “I’m not quite as mean — I haven’t told anybody to sit down and shut up.” But he and Christie share a respect for straight talk and a deep love of the boardwalk — be it in Ocean City or on the Jersey Shore.
“He said every year he does a boardwalk tour . . . he gets to hug a lot of sweaty, sandy, oily people and take pictures,” Hogan said. “I told him that I’m going to do the boardwalk tour, too. But not just the boardwalk, we’re going to try to go all over the state every year.”
Christie, who last year led the Republican Governors Association, also attended the gubernatorial inaugurations this month of GOP primary power brokers Nikki Haley (S.C.) and Terry Branstad (Iowa). While aides say the stops are meant to be congratulatory, some Republican rivals offer a possible subtext: Remember, I helped to elect you.
Since his victory, Hogan says, he has heard from many Republican governors, along with senators, members of the House and potential White House hopefuls — all buoyed by his campaign focus on pocketbook issues and ability to win in a liberal state.
“Everybody’s weighing in,” he said. “They’re all excited and they’re all offering their advice and their assistance.”
But he is not interested, he says, in the national political scene. So much so that when he appeared with Christie and others at the governors association conference in Boca Raton, Fla., and heard question after question about 2016, he felt compelled to make a statement.
“I said: ‘I’d just like to jump in here and say, I want to set the record straight this morning, that I am not going to be a candidate for president in 2016,’ ” Hogan said.
“It brought down the whole house.”