Well, we weren’t expecting that. On Friday, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced he’s running for the open US Senate seat in The “The Wire” State. (Sure, it already has two official nicknames, The Old Line State and The Free State, but is either as popular as David Simon’s gritty cops-’n’-drugs saga?)
Hogan launched his surprise Senate run for the seat currently held by retiring Democrat Ben Cardin just hours before the filing deadline (Washington Post gift link), immediately complicating the electoral math for Democrats who would very much like to hold their narrow Senate majority this year.
Invoking his two terms as a moderate Republican governor in a mostly Democratic state, Hogan said in a launch video that he’s “like the exhausted majority of Marylanders,” hinting that perhaps he’ll come to each voter’s home to give them a nice foot massage.
Hogan brought some bipartisan clichés down from the attic and blew off some stray foam packing peanuts that were clinging to them, saying, “Washington is completely broken” because “willingness to put country ahead of party is far too rare,” and he asked people to remember the good old days before Hogan was term-limited out of office: “For eight years we proved that the toxic politics that divide our nation need not divide our state.”
Mind you, since the state overwhelmingly elected Democrat Wes Moore, with the trifecta completed in both houses of the Legislature, we aren’t too sure Marylanders have been worried too much about the “toxicity” of a $15 minimum wage, a permanent child tax credit, a big infrastructure bill, and the like. But this is a piece about the US Senate race, so let’s look at that. (Way to go, Gov. Moore!)
In 2022, Mitch McConnell tried to convince Hogan to run against Democrat Chris Van Hollen, but Hogan wasn’t fool enough to take that bet. He said at the time, “I have repeatedly said, “I don’t aspire to be a United States senator, and that fact has not changed.” As recently as last May, Hogan was still saying he didn’t want to be a senator, because why would anyone want those headaches, telling NewsNation he “loved being governor,” but that the Senate is
“an entirely different job. […] You’re one of 100 people arguing all day, not a lot gets done in the Senate, and most former governors that I know that go into the Senate aren’t really thrilled with the job.”
Hogan apparently decided he can stomach it if he has to, and hey, it’s an open seat this time. What’s more, Hogan is the only big-name Republican in the primary. People can really adapt to adversity if they have to.
Also, as the Baltimore Banner points out, “until he stepped down in December, Hogan was also a leader of No Labels,” that fun “centrist” party that would love to run a “moderate” who can throw the 2024 election to Trump by splitting the Democratic electorate. We’ll just guess Joe Manchin, who will never ever be president, was not displeased by the move.
McConnell took credit for recruiting Hogan, bragging to Bloomberg reporter Erik Wasson that Hogan was a real feather in his cap for Republicans’ 2024 Senate ambitions: “This is the best one in the sense that we are now competitive in a state nobody thought we could win.”
However! The two top contenders in the Democratic primary race, US Rep. David Trone and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, aren’t exactly pushovers, and immediately said Hogan’s claims of being a bipartisan peacemaker overlook how he actually governed. Trone issued a statement saying Hogan’s candidacy is “nothing but a desperate attempt to return Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump to power,” pointing out that Hogan would provide the “deciding vote” for the worst Republican priorities like a national abortion ban, voter suppression, and huge tax cuts for the wealthy, again.
Trone also attacked Hogan’s supposed bipartisanship, saying that Hogan’s actual actions as governor were anything but:
During his time as governor, Larry Hogan neglected and failed the city of Baltimore, pushed for policies that kicked 200,000 Marylanders off the voter rolls, and cut backroom deals to benefit developers like himself at the expense of Maryland taxpayers.
Angela Alsobrooks wins extra almost-a-cuss style points for her messaging on Hogan’s entry into the race, like a retweet of the McConnell quote about suddenly being competitive that simply read, “Mitch, please,” with a talk-to-the-hand emoji.
In a statement to the Washington Post, Alsobrooks added that “Marylanders deserve a Senator who fights for their interests, their freedoms, their democracy. Not Mitch McConnell’s or the Republicans’ new best friend.”
Alsobrooks and Trone are both strong candidates with solid positions on defending abortion rights and fighting climate change, and both have long lists of endorsements from other Maryland and national Democrats, as well as from unions and other groups. Yr Wonkette likes both, obviously, because we can write “Alsobrooks too” or “Game of Trones,” so we’re happy.
The electoral dynamics that worked for Hogan as governor simply may not carry over into his bid for national office. For starters, Maryland Democrats can count to 50 Senate seats as well as anyone else, and the state has a huge Democratic advantage — roughly two-to-one in voter registration over Republicans, with 22 percent of voters unaffiliated with either party.
As in other states, Maryland’s Republican Party has also become far more batshit loony Trumpy since Hogan left office, and Hogan’s very vocal opposition to Trump, plus his support for real medical precautions during the pandemic, may actually cost him at the polls in the fall.
There’s also Maryland’s voting history; as the Baltimore Banner notes, the last Republican the state sent to the US Senate was Charles “Mac” Mathias, and if you’re wondering “who?” that’s because it was in 1980, for Mathias’s third term.
And in an election year where abortion will be a central issue for voters, Hogan is unlikely to get away with his old standby line as governor, which was that he wouldn’t try to change the state’s abortion laws. OK, but how about a national abortion ban? No wiggling, sir.
Hogan’s entry into the race was enough to upset the assumption that the general election would be settled by the outcome of the May 14 primary between Alsobrooks and Trone.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia moved the race from the “safe Democratic” category into the “likely Democratic” category — a subtle but important acknowledgement of Hogan’s popularity in Maryland and his campaigning and fundraising prowess.
The sudden shift in the significance of Maryland’s Senate race is also certain to make it a magnet for national spending, so it’s probably worth pointing out that, going into 2024, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s fundraising was well ahead of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, with $21.3 million cash on hand compared to Senate Rs’ $14.3 million. But with West Virginia likely to go Republican with Manchin’s decision not to seek reelection, and Democratic incumbents fighting to hold on to Ohio (Sherrod Brown) and Montana (Jon Tester), that money will also have to go farther.
Oh, yes, and we also have a very clear choice for our next 2024 Senate profile, because on Friday, rightwing Montana fuckhead Rep. Matt Rosendale announced that he will challenge Tester, but first he’ll have to win the GOP primary against fellow rightwing fuckhead Tim Sheehy, a first-time Trumpy candidate. They both suck.
2024 should be interesting, the way it was interesting when Calvin imagined a toy train and airplane both about to crash into a tectonic fault that had just begun shifting near the home of Farmer Brown, who is at that very moment attempting to light his stove, unaware of a gas leak. Our eye twitches involuntarily.
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