Boyd K. Rutherford, who was sworn in Wednesday as Maryland’s lieutenant governor, says he had been asked repeatedly over the years to run for public office. A lawyer with experience leading state and federal government agencies, Rutherford had all the makings of a viable candidate.
But he never seriously considered the requests.
Until Larry Hogan, a friend and colleague from the administration of former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), called him, looking for a running mate.
“I didn’t have an excuse,” Rutherford, 57, said in an interview. “Larry Hogan said we need to do something, and I agreed with what he was talking about.”
In his inaugural remarks Wednesday, Rutherford described Hogan’s vision: “If we were able to put aside party politics and focus on those things that unite us as Marylanders, we could lead our great state toward a promising future.”
A political independent as a young adult, Rutherford said he became a registered Democrat while living in the District of Columbia, essentially so he could vote in the party primaries where the vast majority of city elections are decided.
He said he joined the Republican Party about 20 years ago, because the Democratic Party “didn’t speak for me.” He went on to serve as chief administrative officer of the Republican National Committee.
“I have said the Democratic Party treats black people as victims, and I’m not a victim,” Rutherford said. “I’m not a victim in terms of opportunities and the way, generally, I’m treated in life.”
He doesn’t like labels. But if he had to describe his political stance, he is a fiscal conservative. He said he believes in business development as a way to empowerment, more in line with the teachings of Marcus Garvey and the black nationalist movement.
“I believe in the individual,” Rutherford said, “and an individual should make their own choices.”
Rutherford said he plans to serve, in effect, as Hogan’s chief operating officer, largely focusing on making government more efficient. Unlike past lieutenant governors, who had their own communications directors and chiefs of staff, Rutherford said he will rely largely on Hogan’s staff and work directly with department heads on government operations.
He was secretary of the Department of General Services under Ehrlich and assistant secretary of agriculture under President George W. Bush. Most recently, he worked as of counsel to the law firm of Benton Potter & Murdock in Columbia.
David Humphrey, a former communications director for the Department of General Services, described Rutherford as reserved and easygoing, and said his experience — and his emphasis on customer service — will serve him well.
“He sought all points of view on various issues that crossed his desk,” Humphrey said.
Rutherford is the son of a career postal worker who drove a cab part time and a career office worker at the National Institutes of Health, and he grew up in the Michigan Park area of Northeast Washington. He is married, with three children, and lives in Columbia.
Michael Adams, a childhood friend, remembers the young Rutherford being “very focused, someone who knew where he was going, who kept on a straight and narrow path.”
Rutherford attended D.C. public schools and then Archbishop Carroll High School in the District. He graduated from Howard University and received a master’s degree and a law degree from the University of Southern California.
During their college days, Adams, who attended the University of the District of Columbia, would often suggest to Rutherford that they get together. More often than not, Adams recalled, Rutherford would say, “ ‘Man, I gotta study’.”
Despite his new job, Rutherford said, he doesn’t think of himself as a politician. So does that mean he doesn’t plan to seek higher office?
“I can never say never,” he said, “because I said I would never be doing this.”