Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan used his second inaugural address on Wednesday to decry the divisiveness of Washington politics, implicitly criticizing President Trump and illustrating his own appeal to the Republican Party’s Never-Trump faction.
He drew a standing ovation when recalling the courage of his father, the late Lawrence Hogan Sr., who served in Congress and on the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate and was the first Republican to publicly call for President Richard M. Nixon’s impeachment.
“Party loyalty and personal affection and precedents of the past must fall before the arbiter of men’s actions: the law itself,” Hogan said. “No man, not even the president of the United States, is above the law.”
A former real estate developer long active in state GOP politics, Hogan beat a heavily favored Democratic opponent four years ago and has sustained record-high approval ratings as he battled cancer and jousted with Maryland’s Democratic-majority legislature.
After speaking at the Niskanen Center in December, Hogan invited several members of the right-leaning think tank to a lunch at the governor’s mansion last week to discuss policy, the future of the GOP and how the governor might be able to help in the discussion.
On Wednesday, Washington Post opinion columnist Jennifer Rubin floated Hogan as a potential presidential candidate in a column that posted just as he was taking his oath of office.
While Hogan says he is focused on his second term, he has not ruled out a future White House bid. He has railed against the ongoing partial government shutdown, decrying the impact on Maryland’s large population of government workers. In his 18-minute address Wednesday, he assigned blame for dysfunction in Washington to Democrats and Republicans, drawing sustained applause from his audience.
“Neither side really wants to make progress; they just want to make demands and win arguments,” Hogan said. “That’s not governing — that’s just political theater, and most of us are sick and tired of all that drama.”
In addition to his father, he invoked other political heroes: former president George H.W. Bush, who he said “showed us the true meaning of honor, integrity, courage and humility,” and former U.S. senator John McCain, who broke with his party at key moments to decry partisanship or wrongdoing.
“Senator McCain wasn’t someone who would yield easily, but he never hesitated to reach across the aisle to get things done, and he always put his country before his party or himself,” Hogan said. “As we look back on the lives of these leaders, it makes us yearn for something better and more noble than the politics of today.”
The speech was written with input from Mark Salter, a former speechwriter for McCain, who before his death was perhaps the most prominent and vocal GOP critic of Trump.
“We didn’t discuss whether he would run for president, but I’d be happy if he did,” Salter said of Hogan in an interview in which he also praised Republican Govs. Charlie Barker (Mass.) and Doug Ducey (Ariz.).
Conservative commentator Bill Kristol said Hogan’s speech was circulated Wednesday among himself and other Republican Trump critics.
“It looked impressive, and it was more forward-leading than it had to be,” Kristol said. “You couldn’t help but see that he wanted to send a national message and maybe show some interest in the national stage.”
Hogan took the oath of office in the ornate Senate chamber shortly after Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford (R) was sworn in. The governor placed his hand on the same Bible that Gov. Theodore R. McKeldin used for his second inauguration in 1955. They are the only two GOP governors reelected in Maryland history.
At the outdoor ceremony that followed, Hogan and Rutherford reenacted their oaths before about 1,000 people, many decked out in Maryland-flag-themed beanies, scarves, neckties and ribbons pinned on their overcoats.
Encouraged by her father, the governor’s 6-year-old granddaughter, Daniella Velez, shyly led the Pledge of Allegiance while standing on a step stool.
“It is such an honor to be standing here at this historic State House, where General George Washington resigned his commission as commander of the Continental Forces and where the Revolutionary War ended with the ratification of the Treaty of Paris,” Hogan told the crowd, which included current and former elected officials, such as former governor Robert L. Ehrlich and former lieutenant governor Michael Steele, both Republicans, and Democrats Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr. (Calvert), the Senate president, House Speaker Michael E. Busch (Anne Arundel) and former governor Parris Glendening.
Hogan was introduced by former Florida governor Jeb Bush, another moderate Republican who has lamented the direction of his party.
Bush described Hogan as someone who is “at the top of the list of leaders that I admire,” adding that the governor “embodies the strong independent leadership America needs now.”
Hogan governor touted his willingness to compromise with Democrats, avoiding mention of his sometimes ugly clashes with legislative leaders over school accountability, unions, paid sick leave and other issues.
“We spent the last four years working together to unshackle the unlimited potential and promise of this great state,” he said. “We argued without acrimony, negotiated without hidden agendas and compromised without political posturing.”
Former Montgomery County executive Isiah Leggett, a Democrat who became a Hogan ally over the past four years, welcomed the inaugural guests. And Hogan continued his theme of bipartisanship at an inaugural gala Wednesday evening at MGM National Harbor in Prince George’s County.
He arrived with the song “Surfin’ USA” blasting from the speakers, wearing sunglasses and carrying a purple surfboard, a nod to his claim to having ridden a bipartisan wave of support in the election. Flanked by Rutherford and both their families, Hogan spoke to a reported 3,000 attendees, many of them Democrats, on a stage lit by purple lights, with purple and white flowers on either side of him.
“I still remember when we had our first event five years ago — I think we had like seven people,” the governor said. “Man, we’ve come a long away.”
Rachel Chason and David Weigel contributed to this report.
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