Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is the first candidate to go on the airwaves in the governor’s race, putting what aides said is more than $1 million behind an ad that highlights toll and tax reductions during his tenure.
The ad, which began airing statewide Wednesday, hits many of the same pocketbook issues that propelled the Republican’s upset win in Democratic-leaning Maryland four years ago.
The new spot heightens an advertising blitz by the Republican Governors Association. The RGA has aired more than $1 million in attack ads against Hogan’s Democratic challenger, Ben Jealous, a former president of the NAACP.
A spokesman for the Jealous campaign declined Tuesday to say when Jealous ads will begin airing in the state.
Hogan has governed as a moderate and embraced several initiatives pushed by Democrats, including measures to lower the cost of health care, ban the natural-gas extraction technique known as fracking and extend free community college to some students. Recent polls show approval ratings above 70 percent and a large advantage over Jealous headed into the fall election, despite Democrats’ 2-to-1 voter registration advantage in the state.
Hogan’s first ad opens with an image of his Democratic predecessor, Martin O’Malley, and describes some of Hogan’s tax policies, including repealing the “rain-tax,” reducing tolls statewide and pushing for income tax breaks for some retirees.
The ad also includes some questionable claims. Hogan says he has delivered $1.2 billion in tax, toll and fee relief, a figure that includes tax credits that will take effect in the future, tax relief pushed by Democrats in the General Assembly and about $240 million that the U.S. Supreme Court ordered returned to taxpayers because some residents were illegally double-taxed. Hogan campaign spokesman Scott Sloofman said the governor considers the Supreme Court decision in the Wynne case validation of his opinion that Maryland residents were overtaxed.
Hogan’s new ad also claims that “we have not had a single tax increase the entire time that I’ve been governor.”
In fact, several Maryland taxes have risen over the past few years, including automatic increases to the state’s gas tax, higher state taxes for some residents because of last year’s federal tax overhaul, and a $390 million state-level tax on insurance companies backed by Hogan to help stabilize the state’s health insurance market.
Sloofman said the governor had no control over the automatic tax increases, attempted to mitigate the impact of federal tax changes on state tax bills and pointed out that insurance companies had previously been paying that $390 million tax to the federal government.