Banner political notes: Hogan’s not picking sides; the debate debate; fair pair

Published on: September 03, 2022 6:00 AM EDT

Maryland, Baltimore City, Baltimore County politics

Welcome to The Baltimore Banner’s political notes column, where we’ll gather the week’s tidbits, nuggets and ephemera that didn’t make it into other stories.

Banner reporters from across the newsroom will contribute items on state, city and county government and politics.

Look for this column on weekends as we work our way through the general election campaign and the legislative session next year.

Hogan: No endorsement, no way

He’s been asked again and again and Gov. Larry Hogan insists: He’s not endorsing anyone for governor this year.

The two-term governor suffered a defeat this summer when his hand-picked successor, Kelly Schulz, got trounced in the Republican primary by first-term state Del. Dan Cox.

Cox asserts the 2020 election was “stolen” from former President Donald J. Trump, attended Trump’s rally in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, and unsuccessfully tried to impeach Hogan.

Hogan has called Cox a “QAnon whack job” and questioned his mental stability. He’s said multiple times he won’t support Cox.

Does that mean Hogan might endorse Democrat Wes Moore instead?

Speculation was fueled when the two briefly chatted and posed for pictures at the Maryland Association of Counties conference in Ocean City in mid-August.

“The Democratic candidate walked up to me and shook my hand and introduced me to his wife. That’s the extent of my interaction with him,” Hogan said on Fox News a few days later.

Hogan was asked again on a national CBS program a little over a week after the interaction: “No, I’m not endorsing anybody in the race.”

Host Major Garrett suggested that “bashing” Cox was effectively the same as endorsing Moore.

“I’ve just told the truth,” Hogan responded. “When people ask a question, I usually give them a direct answer. And I’ve made it very clear that this guy should not be the nominee. He shouldn’t be governor. But I’m not getting involved in endorsing in the race.”

For his part, Moore confirmed that he hasn’t gotten or solicited an endorsement from Hogan.

Here’s what Moore said hours after the Maryland Association of Counties encounter:

“We just had a nice exchange. You know, he congratulated me on winning the nomination and then we just talked a little bit about the joy of MACo. It was a quick but a really good exchange.”

Debate on debates

Cox and Moore announced this week they’ve both agreed to participate in a gubernatorial debate hosted by Maryland Public Television on Oct. 12, but there was still plenty to argue about.

Third-party candidates said they were not invited to the debate and have challenged those hosting debates or candidate forums to include them. Three third-party candidates will appear on November’s ballot: David Harding with the Working Class Party, David Lashar with the Libertarian Party and Nancy Wallace with the Green Party.

Lashar and his supporters have taken to social media to urge his inclusion, with Lashar — and later Baltimore City Green Party member Andy Ellis — chastising Morgan State University’s student-run newspaper, The MSU Spokesman, for requiring candidates to register at least 10% support in a poll or elections to be included in their planned late September candidate forum.

“If you SAY you’re for vibrant democracy, then BE for it. Push for inclusion,” Lashar tweeted Thursday.

Right now, it appears that Cox is the only candidate who has agreed to appear at The Spokesman’s event. And that brings us to the other debate about debate: How many are voters going to get?

Cox appears to be accepting any and all debate invitations, while Moore is taking his time in deciding which — debate or debates — make the most sense.

Political experts told The Baltimore Banner that a perceived front-runner like Moore is likely to seek fewer debates, while a candidate that appears to be behind, like Cox, generally pushes for as many debates as possible. The race is an open seat and Democrats’ over 2-to-1 registration advantage favors Moore. In addition, Cox has bear hugged former President Donald Trump and his Republican Party supporters — a problem when Trump received less than one-third of Maryland’s vote in the 2020 presidential election.

After the MPT debate announcement, Cox made sure to note that Moore was turning down opportunities to discuss issues that Cox had accepted.

“I am glad Wes Moore has finally accepted an invitation to debate with me. So far, he has refused or declined to respond to several requests,” his campaign said in a statement.

Moore disputed that idea with reporters last week.

“I’m very excited to be able to have a chance to stand toe-to-toe with my opponent to talk about our vision and values and where we see the future of the state is,” he said, “in contrast to his vision and in contrast to his values and also his track record.”

But the campaign’s statements this week only mentioned the October MPT debate and Moore has not committed to any other debates or forums.

Comings and goings

With less than five months until Gov. Larry Hogan’s term is up, aides and advisors have started moving on to new gigs.

The latest is Shareese Churchill, a longtime communications and policy adviser to Hogan, who is making a short trip down the street to join the staff of state Treasurer Dereck E. Davis.

You may recognize Churchill’s voice from Hogan’s televised State House news conferences, as she’s usually the one to warn reporters: “Last question!”

Churchill is making a rare inter-party move from the Republican governor to the Democratic treasurer, where her new title will be deputy treasurer for communications and public affairs. Churchill previously was a press secretary for Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and has done communications work in the private sector.

“She brings a wealth of knowledge and understanding of state government, and I look forward to her leading the office’s efforts to be as communicative and transparent as possible,” Davis said in an announcement this week.

In her own announcement to reporters, Churchill joked: “I will live another day in Annapolis.”

Some other departures from the Hogan administration in recent months include Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles, who is now executive director of the Environmental Council of the States, and the governor’s chief counsel Michael Pedone, who returned to the private sector.

See you at the fair?

Moore and Gordana Schifanelli, Cox’s lieutenant governor running mate, announced they’ll be campaigning at the Maryland State Fair at the same time Sunday afternoon, Moore from 2-3 p.m. and Schifanelli from 1-3 p.m.

May we suggest they split a pork sundae and work out a plan for east-west transit in Baltimore and how much the state is willing to spend to help the city redevelop Hogan’s white elephant gift of State Center?

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