- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2014

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Gov.-elect Larry Hogan reassured an auditorium packed with political leaders Monday that his Republican administration will “put aside partisanship” to steer the state in a better direction.

But seasoned political hands are raising doubts that the Democrat-dominated General Assembly will meet him halfway.

“I stand before you today full of hope, hope for Anne Arundel County, hope for our state and hope for our future,” Mr. Hogan said in a speech at the inauguration of Anne Arundel County Executive Steven R. Schuh, a fellow Republican who took charge of the county that is home to Mr. Hogan and the state capital.

“I want the future of Anne Arundel County and the future of our great state to be better than its present and better than its past,” said Mr. Hogan, who won an upset victory last month over Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, a Democrat, to become only the second Republican governor in deep-blue Maryland since 1969.

“By working together, I believe that we can indeed turn our state around, accomplish great things for the people of Anne Arundel County and that together we can change Maryland for the better,” he said.

At the ceremony, Mr. Hogan shared the stage with House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the state’s last Republican governor. Mr. Busch frustrated much of Mr. Ehrlich’s agenda when the two faced off during Mr. Ehrlich’s single term from 2003 to 2007.

Mr. Hogan, who served as a Cabinet secretary in the Ehrlich administration, said this time would be different. He said the Republican and Democrat sat down together and had “a great meeting.”

“We talked about reaching across the aisle, putting aside partisanship and working together in bipartisan fashion to get things done for the people of Maryland,” Mr. Hogan said, turning from the podium to address Mr. Busch, who was seated on the stage. “I’m looking forward to working with you, Mr. Speaker.”

In an earlier speech, Mr. Busch also promised cooperation after Mr. Hogan is sworn into office Jan. 21.

“Over the next four years, I pledge to work hand in hand in the General Assembly with Gov. Hogan and County Executive Steve Schuh. I look forward to it,” he said.

Mr. Hogan acknowledged that he would bring a Republican perspective to the table, even if his calls for “hope” and “change” sounded identical to the campaign slogan used by President Obama.

“Our philosophies are at opposite ends of the spectrum. I can say that,” Mr. Hogan said after the ceremony.

He said he has been talking about the need for change from the stale politics that have dominated Annapolis and Washington for the past four years through his grass-roots political organization, Change Maryland.

“It’s about working together, bipartisan fashion, common-sense solutions, changing Maryland for the better,” he said.

But Mr. Hogan has steadfastly avoided giving details about his agenda as he prepares to deal with Democratic lawmakers who hold a veto-proof majority in both chambers of the General Assembly.

“I have great ideas about what we’re going to do, and we’re going to talk about them in January,” he told reporters outside the event. “We only have one governor at a time. Martin O’Malley is still the governor. He’s still going to be for 50-some days, and he’s the one that’s making all the policy now.”

Mr. Hogan’s election as governor shocked the political establishment in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1. He scored a decisive 5-point victory, 52 percent to 47 percent, over Mr. Brown.

Mr. Brown was expected to coast to victory after serving eight years alongside Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat positioning himself for a presidential run.

Mr. Hogan, who operates a commercial real estate firm, campaigned almost exclusively against the massive tax increases under the O’Malley-Brown administration and the state’s dire economic situation, which includes an unemployment rate higher than the national average and one of the lowest rates of job growth in the country.

That should put pressure on Democratic lawmakers to bow to Mr. Hogan’s push to lower taxes, cut state spending and bolster the business environment. However, Mr. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s Democrat, will be tempted to deny legislative victories to sabotage Mr. Hogan’s chances for election to a second term, as they did to Mr. Ehrlich.

Mr. Ehrlich, who is eyeing a political comeback with a presidential run in 2016, kept his remarks at the inauguration focused mostly on the new county executive, whom he praised for being a “successful entrepreneur” as well as an effective member of the House of Delegates.

“He took a risk, started a business, hired people, made payroll. You could even say he built that,” he said, reviving a phrase made popular during the 2014 presidential race between Mr. Obama and Republican Mitt Romney.

“Maybe, just maybe, in this state and in this country it’s time we remember who built that. Successful entrepreneurs are the backbone of this culture and our economy. And that man sitting right there did that as well,” he said, gesturing to Mr. Hogan.

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