ANNAPOLIS, Maryland—During a speech delivered at the closing session of the Maryland General Assembly last week, Republican Governor Larry Hogan warned the overwhelmingly Democratic lawmakers that he would dissolve both chambers and call for new statewide elections if they continue to override his vetoes when they reconvene for the next session, in 2017.
“If this Democrat obstructionist agenda continues next year, I will ask Lieutenant Governor Rutherford to dissolve this disrespectful body and schedule new election before the summer,” the first-term governor scolded the legislators.
In the 2016 session, Democrats in both bodies of the General Assembly—the House of Delegates and State Senate—easily overrode Mr. Hogan’s vetoes of six separate bills passed by the legislature:
- Restored voting rights to felons who are on parole and probation.
- Decriminalized the possession of marijuana paraphernalia.
- Extended the state sales tax to hotel bookings purchased through third-party websites like Hotels.com.
- Approved a change to how hotel taxes are collected in Howard County.
- Prevented law enforcement from seizing less than $300 in civil forfeiture cases.
- Restored funding to the Maryland Hall For Creative Arts in Annapolis.
The Maryland House of Delegates has 90 Democratic lawmakers and 50 Republican lawmakers, and the Maryland State Senate has 33 Democrats and 14 Republicans legislators.
Mr. Hogan defiantly told the legislators he would continue to veto any legislation that sought to “inject a Democrat socialist agenda on Marylanders.”
Many political analysts had predicted that Mr. Hogan would recall the General Assembly before the 2017 session—for which each lawmaker would be paid $20,000 for attending—and demand they reconsider the veto overrides, but the fiscal-conservative governor told the legislators he would not impose “unnecessary spending” on Marylanders.
“I won’t burden this state with excessive spending at a time when we’re working to cut the budget straight down to the bone,” Mr. Hogan explained.
“If you guys can’t seem to get your act together in a regular session, I’m not sure you’ll do any better in a special session. Honestly, you guys aren’t worth the extra spending.”
Pale Red Fish, Deep Blue Sea
Mr. Hogan sprung an unanticipated, rare, spectacular upset in 2014 with his five-point victory over Democrat Anthony Brown, an African-American who served as lieutenant governor in both Martin O’Malley administration, who Mr. Hogan succeeded. Since 1900, there have been only six Republican Maryland governors.
Mr. Hogan’s 2014 campaign championed a “Change Maryland” agenda, which he said would “change job-destroying deep-blue politics to conservative red and job growth.”
But Mr. Hogan has been stymied from enacting the legislative agenda he campaigned on because of opposition from the democratic-controlled General Assembly. So he has resorted to using his office as a bully pulpit to, what some political analysts are calling, “slut-shame” Democrats into supporting his agenda.
“All these threats he’s making at Democrats all over the state are just more of Larry’s empty Trumpian blustering,” said Robert Melton, a political analyst and executive director of the Rechange Maryland Coalition, a progressive, pro-black, Baltimore-based advocacy group that has started a petition to recall Mr. Hogan.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Melton said Mr. Hogan is essentially an “uncooperative placeholder.”
“By now he should understand he’s nothing more than a figurehead, like the Queen of England, basically ceremonial, because everybody knows the two Mikes run Maryland,” he said, referring to Maryland Senate President Mike Miller and House of Delegate Speaker Mike Busch, Democrats who are considered the most powerful politicians in Maryland.
However, Mr. Melton applauded Mr. Hogan’s on the awareness and ingenuity of his election campaign for recognizing and taking advantage of the fact that Marylanders have never elected a black or African-American politician to a statewide office.
“He’s from one of those white counties, so he won all the white counties plus the Democratic whites out in the county [Baltimore County] who would rather vote Republican than elect a black governor.”
“And they just did the same thing to Donna Edward,” he said, referring to the popular African-American Democratic congressional representative who was defeated in her bid for the open Maryland U.S. Senate seat last month.
He’s from one of those white counties, so he won all the white counties plus the Democratic whites out in the county [Baltimore County] who would rather vote Republican than elect a black governor.”
If the recall effort is successful, Mr. Melton’s group is backing former Attorney General of Maryland Doug Gansler—a popular Jewish politician who Mr. Brown soundly defeated for the Democratic nomination in 2014—to replace Mr. Hogan.
“At best Larry will be around no more than two years. Maryland is just too progressive to have a militant right-wing nut-job as governor,” said Mr. Melton.
Not Broken, Not Bowed
Mr. Hogan concluded his General Assembly speech with a commitment to never stop fighting to get his agenda through the General Assembly.
“The election has been over now for a long time, elections have consequences, and it’s time for Maryland Democrats to get over it. Nothing that you do can change the reality that I’m the governor. But I will continue to fight for the changes that Marylanders want.”
The next session of the Maryland General Assembly will reconvene on January 11, 2017, and adjourn on April 10, 2017.
Holleran N. Yellen II covers politics in the Mid-Atlantic region.