Josh Kurtz: An Early Look at the Hogan Administration

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By: Josh Kurtz 

Most journalists are hard-wired to want to report the news first.

 But sometimes I have an odd-sounding secondary goal: To report on something before it doesn’t happen.

Two weeks ago, Center Maryland published a column exploring what an Anthony Brown administration might look like. Obviously, there isn’t going to be one.

But I don’t regret doing the column. In fact, I ran into Ken Ulman a day after it appeared and he told me it was pretty spot-on. So, a moral victory for me, haha – something Brown, Ulman and Democrats cannot claim.

So we are looking at a Larry Hogan administration – a surprise to many people, maybe even to Hogan himself.

What will it look like? Who will he tap for key positions? Will he honor his pledge to put together a bipartisan team? How many retreads from the Ehrlich administration will there be? How much influence will Bob Ehrlich have over the process?

It’s obviously very early. Hogan has put his transition team in the hands of two very capable and fairly open-minded guys: Boyd Rutherford, his lieutenant governor-elect and a former state General Services secretary, and Jim Brady, the Business and Economic Development secretary under former Gov. Parris Glendening (D).

Bruce Bereano, the one-of-a-kind Annapolis lobbyist, who was the biggest Hogan cheerleader among the State House lobbying corps, will be doing a lot of the candidate vetting. Rutherford is certain to have out-sized influence in the administration – probably more so than any other previous lieutenant governor, including Brown.

So here, after more than a dozen conversations, is an early look at who the top players might be. As with the Brown column, it is a combination of insider information, plausible rumors and informed speculation. Because the list of obvious contenders to serve in a Republican administration is shorter at the outset than it is for a hypothetical Democratic governor, this piece (thankfully, no doubt, for readers) is shorter than the last one.

2nd floor:

State Sen. Joe Getty (R), who served the Ehrlich administration as policy director, is mentioned most frequently as the next chief of staff. He is a brilliant, well-tempered guy who has served in both chambers of the legislature and is well respected on both sides of the aisle, and is already helping Hogan get organized. But he’s never managed a large enterprise – and does he want to leave the legislature and take on such an all-consuming role?

Also mentioned: Len Foxwell, the maestro behind Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) – the most prominent Democrat with a message of fiscal prudence that’s most in line with Hogan’s, and Aaron Tomarchio, the former chief of staff to Harford County Executive David Craig (R).

Foxwell has many things to consider before taking on such a responsibility – including, perhaps, the future ambitions of his current boss in this new political environment. Tomarchio is enjoying his current gig working for Erickson Living while helping the outfit redeveloping Sparrows Point in Baltimore County. Does he want to jump back into the fray of the public sector?

In a Republican administration dealing with a heavily Democratic legislature, the position of chief legislative officer is critical. A logical choice would be Matt Palmer, who is currently a lobbyist for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. He has previously worked for Johns Hopkins and former state Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R).

Other possibilities: Getty and former state Del. Van Mitchell (D), who was deputy health secretary in the Ehrlich administration and now lobbies for the Manis & Canning firm.

Some other names being talked about for prominent, though undefined 2ndfloor jobs: Henry Falwell, a former Ehrlich communications guru now running his own consulting business, and Bowie City Councilman Henri Gardner, a Democrat who endorsed Hogan over Brown.

A big question is whether Steve Crim, Hogan’s campaign manager, will join the administration. He’s worked for other Maryland Republicans in the past, so it might appeal to him. On the other hand, he’s now a hot commodity as a political operative, having captained one of the biggest upsets of 2014 – and may be very valuable to a high-profile GOP campaign in 2016.

Cabinet Jobs:

With the state’s fiscal picture anything but pretty, Hogan’s nomination for secretary of Budget and Management will also be critical. Possibilities include John Rohrer, the budget and tax point man for legislative Republicans, and outgoing state Sen. David Brinkley (R).

Equally important, with the re-launch of the state’s health care exchange upon us, is who will take over management of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Could Hogan lure former Sen. Bobby Neall, away from Johns Hopkins? Neall, a Republican-turned-Democrat, has credibility in both parties. Also mentioned: Nelson Sabatini, who has already held the job twice, under Ehrlich and the late Gov. William Donald Schaefer (D), Gene Ransom, the CEO of MedChi and a former Democratic commissioner from Queen Anne’s County, and Van Mitchell.

One of the best jobs Hogan has to offer is Transportation secretary. The early rumors suggest David Craig and former Del. Jim Ports (R), who was a deputy secretary under Ehrlich and was a deputy at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, are in the running. Ports currently works for Craig as head of Harford County’s transit system. Craig is also being mentioned for secretary of State – but could be useful to Hogan in a variety of positions.

If Hogan is looking for a national transportation leader with Maryland roots, he might want to tap Anne Ferro, who recently became president and CEO at the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators after five years helming the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Another logical candidate is Baltimore County Councilman David Marks (R), who has held top positions at MDOT and U.S. DOT.

Heading the Department of Business and Economic Development will also be an important job in the Hogan administration. Outgoing Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman (R) – who was also considered a possibility for Brown – is an obvious candidate. Other possibilities: Raymond Biscuso, a Montgomery County technology executive who served on the Washington Metropolitan Transportation Administration Board under Ehrlich; state Sen. J.B. Jennings (R); Victor Hoskins, Ehrlich’s secretary of Housing and Community Development who is now economic development director in Prince George’s County after a stint doing the same job in Washington, D.C.; and Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan.

Other possibilities for other jobs:

Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources: Outgoing Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio (R) is frequently mentioned. Outgoing Sen. Richard Colburn (R) is also apparently interested in the post – or a possible appointment as Agriculture secretary.

Secretary of the Environment: Former Sen. Marty Madden (R) is the early frontrunner.

Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency: Look for a return for Buddy Roogow, currently the director of the D.C. Lottery.

Secretary of Public Safety: Del. John Cluster (R), a former Baltimore County police sergeant. Former Del. Tim Hutchins (R), who was secretary of the State Police during the Ehrlich administration, is also a candidate for some kind of law enforcement position. The same is true for outgoing Del. Steven DeBoy (D) and Ernest Leatherbury, the public safety director at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Secretary of Housing and Community Development: Sen. Anthony Muse (D) is considered an even bet to join the Hogan administration; this may be a good place for him to land.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Del. George Owings (D), who held the job in the Ehrlich administration, is probably coming back.

DGS Secretary: Outgoing Del. Galen Clagett (D) has a lifetime in commercial real estate and based on his failed bid for mayor of Frederick, still has a desire to serve.

Useful Democrats:

Here are some smart staffers that the Hogan administration may be reaching out to, due to their ties to the legislature, relationships generally and relationships across the aisle, and general political savvy, in alphabetical order: Brian Kemmet, who most recently guided state Sen. Jim Mathias (D) to reelection; Tyler Patton, a vice president of the Maryland Broadband Cooperative who has worked for Democrats as diverse as Barbara Mikulski and Norm Conway; Frank Principe, chief of staff at MDOT; and Drew Vetter, a deputy legislative officer for Martin O’Malley.

At a more senior level, outgoing Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt (D) could be helpful to Hogan in a variety of ways.

A Final Question:

Does Hogan give a job to Kendal Ehrlich? What, if anything, does Hogan owe the Ehrlichs?

The relationship between the incoming Republican governor and the state’s previous Republican governor may be one of the most fascinating subplots of the next four years. Ever since 2010, Bob Ehrlich has gone around saying that he expects to be Maryland’s last Republican governor – ever. He was wrong – and now he may regret seeking a rematch with Martin O’Malley four years ago instead of waiting until 2014 to try again.

Because Ehrlich is a Republican partisan who loves to tweak the Democratic establishment in Annapolis, Hogan’s victory has got to provide some satisfaction. But there’s no doubt some jealousy, too – which could lead to some tensions.

Two weeks ago, I used a crude Lyndon Johnson quote to describe the way Anthony Brown should have handled Heather Mizeur had he been elected. The same may apply for Hogan with regard to Kendal Ehrlich. To keep peace in the family, Hogan may need to find a useful role for the former first lady – secretary of State? Secretary of Labor, Licensing and Regulation? Stay tuned.

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at .

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Josh Kurtz has been writing about Maryland politics since late 1995. Louie Goldstein, William Donald Schaefer and Pete Rawlings were alive, but the Intercounty Connector, as far as anyone could tell, was dead.

But some things never change: Mike Miller is still in charge of the Senate. Gerry Evans and Bruce Bereano are among the top-earning lobbyists in Annapolis. Steny Hoyer is still waiting for Nancy Pelosi to disappear. And Maryland Republicans are still struggling to be relevant.

The media landscape in Maryland has changed a lot, and Kurtz is happy to write weekly for Center Maryland. He's been writing a column for the website since it launched in January 2010.

In his "real" job, Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily down on Capitol Hill. But he'll always find Maryland politics more fascinating.

Kurtz grew up in New York City and attended public schools there. He has a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. He's married with two daughters and lives in Takoma Park, Md. He hopes you'll drop him a line, or maybe go out for a meal with him, because he's always hungry -- for political gossip.