By Barry Rascovar
(From The Community Times (a publication of the Carroll County Times)
Dec. 23, 2015
The year’s emotional peak came with his swearing-in as Maryland’s 62nd governor. The low point came when Hogan announced he had been diagnosed with advanced non-lymphoma Hodgkin’s disease that required prolonged and extensive chemotherapy.
As we near the end of 2015, Hogan has every reason to celebrate the holidays with joy and optimism.
Hogan’s cancer is gone, oncology specialists at the University of Maryland Medical Center have told him; his hair is slowly growing back and his future looks sunny.
On the political front, Hogan goes into the holidays with high approval ratings. For a Republican governor in a heavily Democratic state, that is heartwarming.
A note of caution is in order, though, at this time of good cheer and warm wishes.
Hogan’s high approval could be fleeting. Governors always see their ratings sink during legislative sessions when there’s controversy swirling around executive department proposals.
So Hogan can expect his numbers to drop when the General Assembly convenes next month.
No 2016 Honeymoon
This will be Hogan’s second legislative session. The first was pretty much a honeymoon for the new chief executive — except for a nasty tug-of-war over education funding. This time, Democratic leaders will be more aggressive in opposing Hogan initiatives. There won’t be an extended honeymoon.
Hogan has to keep in mind that Democrats will be far more anxious to criticize the Republican governor and block his proposals.
They don’t want to give him victories that might lead to his re-election.
So this winter could be a rocky period for the governor as Democratic leaders in the General Assembly try to gain the upper hand.
Hogan needs to remember that the most recent Republican governor also had high approval ratings through most of his term — only to lose his re-election bid.
At a similar stage of his governorship, Bob Ehrlich enjoyed very strong poll numbers, yet it wasn’t enough to win him another four years in office.
Next year could be a pivotal year from Hogan’s governorship. He’s had time to figure out how to run this huge ship of state. He now knows what he wants to change.
Streamlining government sounds easy in principle. Getting rid of costly and pointless regulations couldn’t be that hard, right?
For every action Hogan takes to eliminate government rules and regulations, there will be an equal and opposite reaction from politicians and groups that fought hard to put those mandates on the books.
Similarly, if Hogan follows up on recommendations by his task force to reorganize state departments and agencies, he can expect fierce opposition.
Quarrels or Cooperation?
The governor will be tested on his ability to work cooperatively with Democrats in the legislature. Hogan got into a needless quarrel last time over education aid and then refused to compromise.
If the same things happens in 2016, there could be gridlock in Annapolis.
Hogan has a lot going for him right now. His public fight to overcome cancer won him countless admirers. He cut highway tolls — a popular move. He has avoided hot-button social issues that could stir an uprising against him.
But can he make headway on his key issues, such as reducing government spending and lowering taxes? Those will be tough to sell to Democrats, who see a need for more, not less, help from government for society’s underclass.
This year turned out to be a blessed one for Larry Hogan. Politically, though, he faces some daunting challenges in the year ahead.