Gov. Larry Hogan bids farewell: ‘We truly have changed Maryland for the better’

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan took a victory lap Tuesday in his farewell address, saying he is proud of the way his administration fulfilled promises on the economy and taxes and rose to meet unforeseen challenges of civil unrest in Baltimore and the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Hogan, the deep-blue state’s first two-term Republican governor since 1959, said leading Maryland had been the honor of a lifetime. He said his approach to the job from the get-go was built on setting aside partisanship and divisive politics in the name of changing Maryland “for the better.”

“While divisiveness and dysfunction continue to paralyze Washington, just up the road from our nation’s capital — here in Maryland — we have already shown a better path forward,” he said.

Mr. Hogan, a staunch critic of former President Donald Trump’s hold on the GOP, warned that the nation “can’t let fringes and factions get in the way of getting things done and solving the serious problems.”

“Our story should be a beacon of hope for the nation, which seems more bitterly divided than ever,” he said.

First elected in 2014 and easily reelected in 2018, Mr. Hogan is considering a bid for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

Mr. Hogan’s final speech as governor doubled as a test drive of his message for a 2024 GOP presidential race.

“America truly is at a critical turning point — one in which the very fate of our democracy could be at stake,” he said. “All of the performative politics and angry, false rhetoric threaten not just to divide us politically, but to tear our country apart.”

“Toxic politics will not restore America,” he said. “Only real leadership will do that.”

Mr. Hogan’s political future is murky.

Party insiders and political analysts say his unyielding criticism of Mr. Trump — who dubbed Mr. Hogan a RINO or Republican in Name Only — will make it next to impossible for him to survive the 2024 GOP presidential nomination race.

The governor has said he will decide about a White House run after he hands over the reins next week to Gov.-elect Wes Moore, a Democrat.

Mr. Moore, a veteran and bestselling author, cruised to victory in the November elections over Republican Dan Cox.

Mr. Cox ran a Trump-inspired campaign. Mr. Cox won the former president’s endorsements but failed to win over Mr. Hogan after criticizing his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

In his farewell address, Mr. Hogan touted his record of cutting billions in taxes, and the lead role he played in stopping the violence that boiled over in Baltimore in 2015 after Freddie Gray died while in police custody. 

‘We ushered in the biggest economic turnaround in America, and we are leaving the state in a far better fiscal position than ever before in history,” he said.

He pointed to record-high spending on education, improvements to roads and transit and the historic levels of funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts.

“These past eight years have been a time of great accomplishment for our state,” he said. “To put it simply — we did exactly what we said we would do, and I can honestly say that I finish my second term with no regrets.”

Mr. Hogan said the state still faces challenges when it comes to crime and raising education standards.

Though near the bottom in national polls of GOP voters, Mr. Hogan’s popularity is through the roof in Democrat-heavy Maryland. A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll in November showed a whopping 73% of voters approved of the way he ran the state for eight years. 

The survey showed Mr. Hogan’s net approval rating never dropped below 60% since Feb. 2015.

“When you think of his legacy the one thing that is going to stand out, I think, is for eight years Maryland taxpayers had a tax holiday,” said John Dedie, a political science professor at Community College of Baltimore County. “He was very fiscally conservative and responsible and there is a huge surplus to show for it, and that is the one thing he will be remembered the most on the policy side.”

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