THE NAMES on the gubernatorial ballot in Maryland this fall are Anthony G. Brown, the Democratic lieutenant governor, and Larry Hogan, a Republican real estate executive. But are the two men really running for the same job?
Judging by their campaigns, they are not — or, to be precise, Mr. Brown is running for governor while Mr. Hogan is embarked on a platitudinous odyssey that substitutes slogans and postures for actual plans and policies.
Lately Mr. Hogan has complained that his Democratic rivals, who enjoy a massive fund- raising lead to match their huge edge in registered voters, have unfairly defined him as a social conservative. But given the fact that Mr. Hogan has scarcely bothered to define himself by offering a coherent platform, it’s hard to feel sorry for him; he’s left the Democrats a whale-sized opening.
Mr. Hogan’s campaign consists mainly of criticizing Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) — and, by extension, Mr. Brown — for having raised taxes. He says he’ll roll back many of them, especially the “rain tax” on polluted storm water runoff. But which other taxes, at what cost in lost revenue, and over how many years? Mr. Hogan doesn’t say.
In fact, he doesn’t say much. His television advertising has promised “fresh ideas that benefit everybody.” But don’t hold your breath seeking those ideas on his Web site or anywhere else. Beyond the occasional pander to special interests — tax breaks for retired police, for instance — his platform consists of a few gauzy sentences, culminating with a credo as wordily empty as any in American politics: “Will this law or action make it easier for families and small businesses to stay in Maryland, and will it make more families and businesses want to come to Maryland? If something comes across Hogan’s desk as governor that doesn’t pass this test, he’ll veto it.”
This risible stance does not constitute a positive message for Marylanders. Nor does Mr. Hogan’s oft-repeated pledge to trim spending by targeting — you guessed it — waste, fraud and abuse, which he declines to specify by program or agency. By contrast, Mr. Brown has issued a think tank full of policy proposals — a cascade of tens of thousands of words whose sheer volume seems partly designed to obscure the fact that paying for it all will be, to be charitable, a reach.
To his credit, Mr. Brown has made a reckoning of the cost of his various new programs and policies; they add up to about $747 million over the next four years.
That’s not a crushing amount when measured against an annual state budget of nearly $40 billion. Nonetheless, the means by which Mr. Brown proposes to pay for his initiatives are unconvincing, to say the least. The $108 million he seeks for affordable housing, for instance, would come from unspecified cost-cutting ideas that might be proposed by state employees. The $64 million he wants for veterans’ programs would materialize when out-of-state veterans flocked to Maryland to avail themselves of the state’s largesse. Even if funding to pay for it all isn’t available, Mr. Brown argues, it’s “the right thing to do.”
It would nice if Mr. Brown offered voters a more realistic assessment of how he would pay for his programs, but at least he’s trying. Mr. Hogan, on the other hand, is just going through the motions.