Gov. Larry Hogan took office Wednesday calling for a new era of bipartisan cooperation even as he declared that Maryland fell short economically under the policies imposed by Democratic leaders.
Hogan (R), an Anne Arundel County real estate executive, pledged to be a champion for “beleaguered taxpayers” and the “forgotten middle class” — and declared Maryland “open for business” again.
“We must get the state government off our backs, and out of our pockets, so that we can grow the private sector, put people back to work and turn our economy around,” the state’s 62nd governor told an enthusiastic audience of more than 1,500 people who gathered outside the State House in Annapolis on a cold and snowy afternoon.
The flakes began to fall just before the ceremony started, and they intensified as Hogan — who had run for office before but never won — stepped to the lectern. “They said it was going to be a cold day in Hell before we elected a Republican governor,” he quipped, eliciting cheers and laughter.
Hogan was introduced by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another Republican embraced by voters in a blue state, who became one of Hogan’s biggest cheerleaders during the campaign. On Wednesday, Christie described Hogan as a chief executive “ready, willing and able to lead this state to a bright new future.”
In his 18-minute speech, Hogan called for an end to “partisan shouting” but included no policy specifics, which Democrats have been pressing for since his unexpected defeat of Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) in November. Hogan is scheduled to hold a news conference at noon Thursday to outline the budget that he is slated to submit to the legislature by Friday.
“It will be the first glimpse we see of the road map of where the governor wants to take us,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).
Hogan’s spokeswoman said Wednesday that the governor was halting some last-minute rules put forward by outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), including regulations aimed at curbing farm pollution on the Eastern Shore. The regulations, required to be published on Friday to take effect, will be reviewed by the new administration and could be opened up for additional public input, spokeswoman Erin Montgomery said.
Mostly, however, Wednesday was about celebration — including a traditional 19-gun salute after Hogan’s swearing-in. Hundreds of people stood in a line waiting to greet Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford (R) in the first-floor rotunda in the afternoon.
Among them was Louis Stack of Upper Marlboro, who said that before Wednesday, he had been hesitant to share with friends in Prince George’s County that he voted for a Republican. Stack, 70, said that Hogan got his support because he seemed to understand what businesses need.
“I want to see some of the big technology firms come to this state the way they have in Virginia,” said Stack, a technology consultant. “We need the jobs.”
Nancy Griffin, 82, said the governor’s call for an end to political polarization resonated with her. While campaigning for him in Montgomery County, she heard over and over again from voters who were tired of partisan bickering, tired of taxes and tired of a government that they believed had fallen out of touch.
“The country and its people have to be first.,” said Griffin, of Potomac. “The rest will fall in place.”
Wednesday began with an interfaith church service in Annapolis, and ended with an inaugural ball at the Baltimore Convention Center. Before the gala, Hogan joined a packed VIP reception at the Baltimore Hilton, where guests drank champagne and munched on shrimp scampi and crab cakes.
Among the guests was Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), who declared the evening the start of a bipartisan renaissance in the state.
Hogan worked the room, flanked by watchful security guards and surrounded by cellphone cameras. An Annapolis band, Bobbi and the Believers, thumped out ’70s funk and disco.
“That’s the sound of taxes going down,” said Tracie King, president of an optometrists’ trade association.
At the convention center, the dancing paused at 9:15 p.m., when Hogan appeared onstage with his wife, Yumi Hogan, their three adult daughters and a 2-year-old granddaughter, Daniella Valez, whom the governor called “the love of my life.”
“It was a great day, wasn’t it?” Hogan said to cheering donors and volunteers. “Now the hard work begins.”
Hogan and Rutherford took their oaths of office shortly after noon inside the State House. The exercise was then repeated outdoors for the larger crowd. Mary Ellen Barbera, chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, administered the oaths.
Hogan used a Bible — held by his wife — that had been used in the 1950s by then-Gov. Theodore R. McKeldin, the last Republican governor in Maryland to serve two terms.
Politicians in the crowd included O’Malley, who was term-limited, and Brown. Former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), whose Cabinet included Hogan and Rutherford, offered introductory remarks.
In his speech, Hogan said he was hopeful the inauguration would mark “a new beginning for Maryland and the limitless possibilities before us.” He pledged to put aside partisanship and strive for a “common-sense, solutions-based government” and “a place that we can all be proud of again.”
“What I envision for Maryland is not just an economic and fiscal recovery, but a rebirth of our spirit and a renewed commitment to our common purpose,” Hogan said. “Too often, we see wedge politics and petty rhetoric used to belittle our adversaries and inflame partisan divisions. But I believe that Maryland is better than this. . . . It is only when the partisan shouting stops that we can hear each other’s voices and concerns.”
Hogan choked up as he talked about another Maryland politician who was sitting behind him onstage: his father, Lawrence J. Hogan Sr., a former congressman and the last Republican to serve as Prince George’s County executive.
The elder Hogan was the first Republican in Congress to announce his support for the impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon (R), an action his son said “taught me more about integrity in one day than most men learn in a lifetime.” He then turned away from the lectern to give his father a hug.
Rutherford, too, emphasized working across the aisle and focusing “on those things that unite us” as Marylanders.
The calls for bipartisanship reflects some pragmatism, Miller said, given the large Democratic majorities in the legislature.
“He doesn’t have any other choice,” Miller said of Hogan. “The only way that he’s going to get something done is to cooperate.”
House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke (R-Anne Arundel), who like Miller also had a coveted seat on the heated stage, said Hogan’s speech should challenge lawmakers to do what taxpayers want them to do to jump-start the state’s economy, rather than being distracted by other issues.
“It just continues to confirm the Larry Hogan that we all know to be a guy who really wants to bring people together,” Kipke said. “It’s going to be tough in a political climate like the one that exists in Annapolis but if anybody can do it, he can.”
Kipke said he asked Hogan on Wednesday morning about the budget – which the governor has kept secret until an unveiling on Thursday. “He said, ‘What I can tell you is that I’m proud of it and it’s going to reflect everything I’ve been talking about,’ ” Kipke said. “It’s going to be a budget that taxpayers in Maryland can afford. Special interest groups will likely be angry about certain things, but the taxpayers will be very happy.”
Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery) called Hogan’s remarks on Wednesday “spot on” and much more appealing than a speech he gave recently to a group of Montgomery community leaders that she described as “too divisive.”
“I thought today he had more of a global vision,” Kagan said. “He certainly will have some different priorities than Democratic legislators will have, but I’m open-minded.”
Arelis H. Hernández, Bill Turque and Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.