Since the cataclysmic Key Bridge collapse last week, former Gov. Larry Hogan has issued the requisite expressions of sympathy and support. He has said he is lobbying Republican lawmakers to back federal funding for a new bridge. He’s met with the head of the longshoreman’s association.

Yet he’s been relatively quiet — and many local leaders say Hogan’s tense history with Baltimore makes his words ring hollow, especially as he campaigns for an open U.S. Senate seat.

The former two-term Republican governor passed through Baltimore on Wednesday, visiting a nonprofit and a hardware store before ducking into Faidley’s for a crab cake. But there was no stop at the port or cleanup site. Hogan doesn’t hold office anymore and non-official visits are restricted, but he also did not stop at nonprofits aiding those affected by the tragedy.

And while Hogan has fired off four tweets about the bridge since it crumpled into the Patapsco River on March 26, he tweeted seven times about the Orioles’ Opening Day last week.

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In his few public remarks on the bridge disaster, Hogan sounded a familiar note: pragmatism over partisanship.

“Leaders at every level of government and in both parties need to put aside the politics and work together to get the wreckage cleared and get our longshoremen back to work as soon as possible,” he wrote in a statement on his campaign website after meeting with state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling, a Baltimore County Republican, and Scott Cowan, president of the International Longshoremen Association.

When he has weighed in, some of Twitter reminded him that he wasn’t there for Baltimore in the past.

“Larry, do you even know where baltimore city is?” replied one user.

Through a spokesman, Hogan declined to be interviewed. His campaign sent this statement: “Having led Maryland through numerous crises, Governor Hogan understands what is helpful in these situations and what is not. The cynics, the pundits, and especially the aggrieved politicians should get used to the fact that he is not a typical candidate, and won’t be just another typical senator. Instead of the same old partisan bomb throwing, Governor Hogan is going to focus on bringing Marylanders together and putting forward real solutions.”

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The former governor told Fox News last week that he was urging Republican lawmakers in Washington, some of whom are loath to send federal funds to deep-blue Maryland, to fund construction of a replacement bridge. He said he had reached out to his Democratic successor, Gov. Wes Moore, to offer his assistance and say that “when it comes to a crisis like this, we’re all one Team Maryland.”

But for many Baltimoreans, Hogan is a bridge burner, not a builder. They keenly remember how he canceled the Red Line public transit project, returning $900 million in federal funding and reallocating hundreds of millions in state funds to counties.

“Hogan is an opportunist. He only cares about himself and how he looks in the moment,” said state Del. Marlon Amprey, a Baltimore Democrat. He noted that Democrats overrode Hogan’s vetoes of numerous bills, including the Maryland Blueprint for Education.

Maggie McIntosh, who represented Baltimore in Maryland’s House of Delegates from 1993 to 2023, recalled her anger when Hogan cancelled the Red Line. His office then created a map to show where the money would move that infamously depicted every county but not Baltimore, which is an independent city.

“I remember looking at it and thinking, ‘What governor would do that? What governor would leave any county off the map?’ ” she said. “It was his way of communicating what he felt about this city. He used Baltimore as a punching bag for eight years.”

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Like many city Democratic leaders, McIntosh is both bemused and incensed about what she called Hogan’s “new and disingenuous” interest in Baltimore, as both national and international media flock to cover the collapsed bridge. He gave the city nothing as governor, she contended.

“He’s probably looking forward to winning and trying to cancel the Red Line a second time,” McIntosh said of the transit project that would connect East and West Baltimore, which was revived last year by Moore.

A recent poll by The Baltimore Banner and Goucher College showed a close race between Hogan and either of the two candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and U.S. Rep. David Trone.

The poll, which was conducted before the bridge collapse, showed Hogan besting both candidates by a few points in a November matchup. About 10% of voters said they were undecided.

Mark J. Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University in Northern Virginia, found Hogan’s relative silence puzzling.

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”There’s no issue in the state that is more visible than that tragedy and there is no political downside at all to addressing it,” Rozell said in an email. Hogan “is running for the support of voters who are deeply affected by the tragedy and expect their representatives to give voice to their feelings.”

However, other observers saw Hogan’s low-key response as a sign he did not want to politicize the disaster.

”I think he is looking at this as something bigger than politics,” said Michael Hanmer, director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement. “I suspect he views his role as helpful if called upon — otherwise [he’s going to] let the people currently in office do their jobs and not make this about politics.”

And Hogan did not join the list of far-right Republicans who blamed diversity initiatives, illegal immigration or the Biden administration for the collapse of the bridge.

The site of the collapsed Key Bridge and the container ship that toppled it, the Dali, are seen from a debris retrieval vessel, the Reynolds, on April 4, 2024. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Todd Eberly, a St. Mary’s College of Maryland political science professor, said Hogan’s message of bipartisanship fared well with voters in the counties surrounding Baltimore. And while just 22% of voters in Baltimore City supported Hogan in 2014, that share climbed to 34% percent four years later— even after Hogan had killed the Red Line.

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Eberly said Hogan scored points with voters over his handling of two major crises during his tenure: the 2015 uprising following the death in police custody of Freddie Gray and the COVID pandemic. He was also one of the few Republican officeholders willing to strongly criticize former President Donald Trump. He flirted with a presidential bid but ultimately decided to run for the Senate.

While Moore and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott are currently being closely watched as they respond to the bridge crisis, holding regular news conferences accompanied by other Democratic officeholders, the pressure is off Hogan.

“Folks who are not currently in office have the benefit of being held blameless about anything that happens in the next couple months,” Eberly said.

Still, Eberly expects Hogan to run into serious challenges at the polls in November. The presidential election means that more Maryland voters will be heading to the polls this year, unlike in 2014 and 2018 when Hogan ran for governor. In deep-blue Maryland, voters are expected to overwhelmingly back President Joe Biden over Trump — and are aware that a vote for Hogan could tip the Senate to the Republicans.

Said Eberly, “Hogan needs to convince people to do something they don’t do much anymore, which is split the ticket.”

This article has been updated to clarify that Hogan was unable to visit the cleanup site because unofficial visits are restricted.

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