For the second time this week, Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan held forth about local and national politics during a visit to Democrat-rich Montgomery County, floating the idea of open primaries and contemplating a future in national politics.
“You never say never,” Hogan told a gathering of business leaders in Bethesda when asked if he would consider running for national office. “I’m one of the most popular governors in the country.”
But the governor, whose approval rating hovers above 70 percent in a state where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 2 to 1, also played down the idea that he planned to run for higher office.
“I have never really given that much thought,” he said. “Right now, I’m a lot more focused on just getting reelected because there’s a lot more things to get done in the second four years.”
The comments came during a wide-ranging, 45-minute interview with David Rubenstein, president of the Economic Club of Washington D.C. and co-founder of the private equity firm the Carlyle Group.
The toughest question Hogan fielded before a friendly crowd of several hundred business leaders at the Bethesda Marriott was how he recommends repairing the Baltimore Orioles, who currently have the worst record in Major League Baseball. (He suggested that Rubenstein, who Forbes says is worth $3 billion, purchase the team.)
In October 2015, when Hogan was encouraged by a supporter to consider a presidential bid, he scoffed at the suggestion. He nonetheless posted it to his Facebook page, writing that “all this talk is a little crazy.”
Since taking office, he has governed as a moderate, criticizing President Trump and Republicans in Congress numerous times. He is running for a second term and has drawn several dozen Democratic endorsements in his bid to defeat Democratic nominee Ben Jealous.
On Thursday, in response to a question from former Montgomery county executive Doug Duncan (D), Hogan said it was “worth considering” holding open primaries in Maryland to give more power to independent voters — or perhaps adopting California’s unusual, nonpartisan “jungle primary” model.
Hogan said that the progressive platforms of two Democratic nominees selected this year in crowded contests — Jealous in the governor’s race and Marc Elrich in the Montgomery county executive race — indicate that partisan primaries are selecting polarizing and “extreme” candidates.
“It shouldn’t be a tiny minority of the Democratic Party that comes out to vote,” Hogan said. “I’m not sure they represent the majority of the Democratic Party, or certainly not the majority of people in the state. . . . The system doesn’t seem to be working well.”
Jealous’s campaign disputed Hogan’s characterization of him as polarizing, noting that Hogan has called teachers union officials “thugs” and, three decades ago, supported antiabortion efforts.
“He is the last person who should be calling anyone polarizing,” Jealous spokeswoman Jerusalem Demsas said.
Hogan, meanwhile, also cast himself as someone who does not engage partisanship and put distance between himself and the national GOP.
“I got elected not because I was a Republican, but in spite of the fact I was a Republican,” Hogan said. “I went into it not as a Republican, but as close as you can get to an independent.”