The Pathway Paved: How Ehrlich’s Administration Set the Stage for Hogan*
The state of Maryland, traditionally leaning Democratic, surprised many political observers when it elected not one, but two Republican governors in the 21st century. Bob Ehrlich’s administration (2003-2007) and Larry Hogan’s two-term reign starting in 2015 present a unique case study in how one administration can lay the groundwork for the success of a like-minded successor. This essay explores the argument that, without the foundation set by Governor Ehrlich, Governor Hogan might not have achieved the electoral success he did in Maryland.
1. Breaking the Blue Ceiling:
The Ehrlich victory in 2002 was the first Republican gubernatorial win in Maryland since Spiro T. Agnew in 1966. By achieving this upset, Ehrlich demonstrated that it was possible for a Republican to be competitive and win in an otherwise Democrat-dominated state. His win shattered the myth of invincibility surrounding the Democratic hold on the governorship and made the idea of Hogan’s subsequent campaigns plausible.
2. Moderate Republicanism:
Both Ehrlich and Hogan adopted moderate Republican stances, distinguishing themselves from the national GOP on various issues. Ehrlich’s moderate governance softened the perception of the Republican brand in Maryland, making it more palatable to independents and moderate Democrats. Hogan, capitalizing on this precedent, was able to position himself as a reasonable, pragmatic choice for Marylanders.
3. The Importance of Bipartisanship:
Ehrlich’s administration made concerted efforts to work with Democrats in Annapolis. While there were confrontations, the overall impression was that Ehrlich aimed for bipartisanship. Hogan followed a similar strategy, repeatedly emphasizing his willingness to work across the aisle. In a state with a Democratic majority, this approach wasn’t just strategic, but necessary. Ehrlich’s efforts in this regard set a blueprint for Hogan.
4. Addressing Maryland’s Concerns:
Ehrlich took on issues of concern to Marylanders, such as the environment (Chesapeake Bay restoration) and education. By initiating a Republican approach to traditionally Democratic issues, Ehrlich set a precedent for Hogan. Hogan’s focus on fiscal responsibility, without resorting to socially divisive stances, echoed this model.
5. Image and Perception:
Ehrlich’s geniality and lack of overt partisanship set a tone for how a Republican could be perceived in a blue state. Hogan, with his everyman image and personal battles (such as his fight against cancer), was able to resonate with Marylanders in a similar manner.
In conclusion, while it would be an oversimplification to state that Hogan’s electoral successes were solely due to Ehrlich’s earlier administration, it’s evident that the path was made smoother. Ehrlich’s time in office provided a prototype for how a Republican could navigate the political waters of Maryland, emphasizing moderation and bipartisanship. Hogan, learning from and building upon this precedent, managed to create his own legacy, but the foundation laid by Ehrlich was undoubtedly instrumental in paving the way.