By JESSICA CAMPISI and JOSH MAGNESS
Capital News Service
COLLEGE PARK – While some prominent Republicans will reach for pierogies or Polish Boys in Cleveland next week, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan will be reaching for Old Bay instead.
Instead of attending the Republican National Convention, Hogan, who has previously said he doesn’t plan to vote for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, will attend the Tawes Crab Feast and Clam Bake with other Marylanders, Hogan spokeswoman Shareese Churchill wrote in an email.
“Governor Hogan has repeatedly said he is focused on Maryland,” Churchill wrote.
The moderate governor isn’t alone in skipping the convention. He joins other notable party figures, such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney and three members of the Bush family: former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
“Anybody has the right to go to the convention or not go,” said Joe Cluster, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party. “(Hogan’s) more focused on the state of Maryland and less on national politics.”
In Maryland’s April 26 primary, Trump proved to be the favorite, earning 54 percent of the vote, followed by Kasich, who got 23 percent, according to the Maryland Board of Elections.
Louis Pope, national committeeman for the Maryland Republican Party, said it is “totally (Hogan’s) personal choice” as to whether he will attend the convention in Cleveland.
“He has got plenty to do with running the state government and I think he decided to stay out of the presidential politics,” Pope said. “I don’t have an opinion on it.”
Dwight Patel — the second vice-chair of the Montgomery County, Maryland, Republican Central Committee — echoed Pope’s sentiment.
Patel added that Hogan’s absence signals his dedication to fiscal conservatism.
“He will not spend taxpayer dollars to go to the convention,” Patel said. “I don’t know if it would be state-funded or he would pay his way, but either way it shows good fiscal responsibility.”
He did concede, however, that the decision could look bad if the Republican nominee hailed from Maryland.
“It would be one thing if say, Bob Ehrlich ran for president and he was our party’s nominee and let’s say that Hogan doesn’t go,” Patel said. “That would be different because he is a former governor from our state. But the governor is taking care of business at home.”
Ehrlich, a one-term governor of Maryland from 2003 to 2007, endorsed Donald Trump in a Facebook post on May 11.
“The GOP presidential field was the strongest in recent memory,” Ehrlich wrote. “Many of us had a favorite candidate (Ohio Governor John Kasich in my case) who fell short. This intramural fight is now history. Our candidate is Donald Trump. His opponent is most likely Hillary Clinton…aka four more years of progressivism on steroids. … The bottom line: regardless of recently inflicted hard feelings, it is time to get our act together; time to stop progressivism’s hold on our culture and economy; TIME TO WIN.”
Ehrlich will attend the convention in Cleveland, where he plans to speak several times to show his support for Trump.
“It’s important that a Republican president gets elected in November,” Ehrlich said.
Hogan was more concerned about the election when his good friend, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, was still in the race, Cluster said. Since Christie ended his presidential bid on Feb. 9, the New Jersey governor has endorsed Trump and will speak at the convention.
Former Republican candidates speaking out against Trump and staying home during the convention should be doing more to support his campaign, Cluster said.
“As a Republican who signed the same pledge Trump did, it’s not good for them to be staying out,” Cluster said. “If it were them (as the nominee), they would be complaining if Trump weren’t there.”
“As Republicans,” Cluster added, “we all have to stick together and make sure Hillary Clinton does not become president.”
Todd Eberly, an associate professor of political science and public policy at St. Mary’s College, said there is no modern precedent for this number of high-ranking GOP officials refusing to attend the convention.
“Good luck finding an example of a former president who is alive not coming out behind the new nominee,” Eberly said. “George W. Bush was behind McCain, he was behind Romney, but he is doing nothing and saying nothing about Trump.”
In Eberly’s opinion, Hogan’s refusal to endorse Trump or show any sign of support for the controversial business mogul is more than just making a moral stand.
It’s something Hogan must do to have a chance at being re-elected in 2018, Eberly said.
“If you are Hogan, who wants to run for re-election in two years, him not backing Trump makes no difference in the electoral college,” he said. “Hillary could have been indicted, convicted and executed and she would still win Maryland over Trump.”
“Backing Trump,” he said, “is death for your re-election chances.”