- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

At his inauguration as Maryland’s 62nd governor, Republican Larry Hogan promised to usher in an era of bipartisanship and cooperation in a state capital dominated by Democrats, even as he outlined an unabashedly conservative pro-business agenda.

“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,” Mr. Hogan said in a speech delivered on the steps of the State House.

As he began his speech amid a flurry of snowfall that dusted the crowd, Mr. Hogan with a joke acknowledged the improbability of his election in deep-blue Maryland.

“They said it was going to be a cold day in hell before we elected a Republican governor,” he quipped.

Mr. Hogan, who owns a commercial real estate business, won an upset victory in November over Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, a Democrat who served eight years alongside Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is preparing a run for the Democratic presidential nomination next year.

Having campaigned almost exclusively on pledges to rein in out-of-control state spending and roll back some of the 40 tax and fee increases levied under Mr. O'Malley, Mr. Hogan outlined a governing philosophy focused on rigorous stewardship of the budget.

“To my friends across the aisle, I assure you that partisanship will never play a role in my decision-making. Everything we do will be guided by four common-sense principles,” he said.

The principles are fiscal responsibility, economic growth, fairness to tax policy and improved delivery of government services to the citizenry.

Mr. Hogan’s calls for lower taxes and fewer regulations — an agenda likely destined for fierce debate in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly — was tempered by his extolment of the virtues of respect, inclusiveness and bipartisanship that he said would be the hallmarks of his administration.

He quoted former President John F. Kennedy, who said, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer.”

“In that spirit,” Mr. Hogan said, “let us sit down together and come up with real bipartisan, common-sense solutions to the serious problems that face us. That’s what the people of Maryland voted for. It’s what they want and it’s what they deserve.”

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford was sworn in shortly before Mr. Hogan.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who campaigned and raised money for Mr. Hogan, introduced the new governor at the outdoor ceremony, calling him someone “who knows how to bring people together.”

Mr. Christie also characterized Mr. Hogan in terms he could have used to describe himself.

“I like him because he’s blunt and direct and he says what he believes. But he also knows that his job as governor is to get things done for the people of Maryland,” said Mr. Christie, who is considering a presidential run.

Mr. Hogan will search for bipartisanship in a state accustomed to one-party rule.

Mr. Hogan is the state’s second Republican governor since Spiro T. Agnew left office in 1969 to become vice president under Richard Nixon.

The Democratic Party has relished its dominance of state politics. The party’s leaders and their powerful allies, including labor and teacher unions, celebrated gleefully when the last Republican governor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., was stymied by Democratic lawmakers and then bounced out of office by voters in 2006 after a single term.

Mr. Hogan served as a Cabinet secretary for Mr. Ehrlich, who attended the inauguration.

State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, who also led the legislature during Mr. Ehrlich’s tenure, have said they were prepared to work with Mr. Hogan.

The tough job for Mr. Hogan commenced almost immediately. He is scheduled to unveil a budget Thursday that will attempt to close a $767 million shortfall he inherited from Mr. O'Malley.

He previously warned Marylanders to brace for budget cuts and reduced services that likely will be felt in people’s daily lives, though he said the belt-tightening was the first step toward tax relief.

The budget is expected to dominate the 90-day General Assembly session that opened last week.

In first official act as governor, Mr. Hogan issued an order that created a code of conduct for executive branch employees. Violations of the code constitute grounds for termination from state employment.

“Integrity will be of the utmost importance in the Hogan-Rutherford administration and as such, I expect every person who serves in the Executive Branch to adhere to these standards at all times,” he said in a statement. “This is the right thing to do, and it ensures that good government practices will be in place from the top to the bottom of my administration.”

The code of conduct included a ban on accepting or soliciting gifts, a dedication to honesty and impartiality in conducting state business, adherence to anti-discrimination laws and avoidance of actions that create the appearance of impropriety.

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