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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan promises business leaders he will ‘battle’ Democrats

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) delivered a speech Wednesday to business leaders in Hanover skewering Democrats who control the state legislature.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) delivered a speech Wednesday to business leaders in Hanover skewering Democrats who control the state legislature. (Steve Ruark/AP)

Days after he bowed out of a potential presidential bid he had stoked by emphasizing bipartisanship, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan delivered a combative speech skewering Democrats who control the state legislature and vowing to spend the remainder of his term in “battle” with them.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is going to be the battle that will literally determine what kind of state our kids and grandkids will inherit,” Hogan, a Republican, told a crowd of business leaders in Hanover.

“This is not just your typical fight between Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “This is a fight for Maryland’s future, and it is a fight worth fighting.”

Among other things, the governor promised to work against sales, income or other tax increases to pay for a landmark education expansion to which the General Assembly overwhelmingly gave initial approval this year.

“Not a single one of those things is ever going to happen as long as I’m your governor,” Hogan said.

If fully implemented as envisioned, the costly overhaul would dramatically reshape the state’s public education system, raising teacher pay, creating free preschool for every 4-year-old and enacting myriad other reforms.

Lawmakers intend to figure out how to pay for it next year.

Hogan’s remarks to the Maryland Free Enterprise Foundation — a business advocacy group formerly known as Maryland Business for Responsive Government — were his first public comments since he announced Saturday he would not run for president in 2020.

Hogan, weighing Trump challenge, casts himself as traditional Republican

In the wide-ranging speech, the governor departed from the theme of bipartisanship that had peppered his public appearances since his reelection in November, when some GOP insiders started courting him as a potential challenger to President Trump.

In his January State of the State address, Hogan touted Maryland as a national model and said “a divided government does not have to be a divisive government. . . . We found a way to disagree without being disagreeable.”

On Tuesday, however, the second-term governor took aim at the Democrats who hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers in Annapolis, characterizing his political opponents as obstructionists who offer no policy ideas beyond spending money.

“Some of them seem hellbent on stopping all of the economic progress and positive momentum that we have achieved,” he said at one point.

At another, he said Democrats who oppose his plan to add toll lanes to Interstate 270 and the Capital Beltway “have done absolutely nothing but spread misinformation” and “want to fight to make sure that their constituents continue to spend their lives stuck in traffic.”

The heightened rhetoric comes before a key Board of Public Works vote Wednesday on whether to advance his toll plan.

In general, Hogan derided his political opponents as “out-of-touch, far-left politicians,” denounced the state’s just-passed $15 minimum wage law and condemned “out of control” violence in Baltimore.

Democratic lawmakers reacted with frustration, with some taking to social media to contradict the governor and criticize his shift in tone.

“So ‘Mr. Bipartisan’ basically just spent the last hour bashing Democrats,” Del. Kirill Reznick (D-Montgomery) said on Twitter.

Why is Hogan pursuing toll lanes project despite objections? It’s good politics.

Del. Marc A. Korman, a Democrat who is chair of the large and influential Montgomery County delegation, listed five transportation initiatives Democrats have pushed to alleviate traffic, including the Purple Line.

“Shall I continue?” he tweeted.

Alexandra Hughes, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), said: “We thought that the Governor had decided not to run for President. But it seems that he is primarily interested in antagonizing members of the General Assembly to juke his poll ratings with Republican-base voters.”

State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) declined to comment.

Hogan also implored businesses to join him in fighting any tax increases and to improve the state’s business climate.

“I’m not a magician,” he said. “And I can’t do it all by myself.”

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