Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday that he will not run for the U.S. Senate, rebuffing an aggressive recruitment push from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans who saw the term-limited governor as the GOP’s best chance to win in the deep-blue state.
Hogan announced his decision during an unrelated afternoon press conference in the state Capitol, explaining that he could not finish his term as governor effectively and run for the Senate at the same time.
“I sincerely appreciate all the people who have been encouraging me to consider it," Hogan told reporters. "A number of people have said that they thought I could make a difference in the Senate and be a voice of common sense and moderation. I was certainly humbled by that. And it gave me and my family reasons to consider it. But as I have repeatedly said, I don’t aspire to be a United States senator.”
The governor’s decision, while not totally unexpected, marks a second significant recruiting setback in the Republican Party’s broader fight to seize the Senate majority. In November, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, another popular, moderate Republican, stunned McConnell's team by announcing he would seek reelection as governor instead of launching a widely expected Senate bid.
Hogan, a fierce critic of former President Donald Trump, had indicated he was unlikely to run all along. But given his popularity, the 65-year-old Republican governor would have instantly become a legitimate contender against Democratic incumbent Sen. Chris Van Hollen — even in a state Trump lost by 32 percentage points in 2020.
There are no other high-profile Republican contenders in Maryland’s Senate contest. The filing deadline is Feb. 22.
A spokesman for the Senate Democrats' campaign arm called Hogan's decision the latest in “a series of humiliating recruitment failures” for the GOP.
Hogan said he privately notified key Washington Republicans of his decision ahead of the press conference, including McConnell, Sens. Rick Scott of Florida, Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine.
Aides sought to distinguish Hogan’s move from that of Sununu, who was widely expected to enter the race to challenge Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, but he changed his mind after speaking to multiple Senate Republicans.
Hogan never signaled he was interested in becoming a senator. Just last month he publicly declared that he did not have “a burning desire” to serve in the Senate. But given the extraordinary encouragement he received from leading Republicans in Washington, he gave the prospect serious consideration.
McConnell and Scott, who leads the GOP’s Senate campaign arm, held multiple recruitment conversations with Hogan in recent months. Allies also made financial pledges and shared internal polling to persuade him to run.
With Hogan unpersuaded by McConnell’s pitches, McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, a Cabinet member in the Trump and George W. Bush administrations, also encouraged a Senate bid during a lunch with Hogan’s wife in the Maryland governor’s mansion.
Hogan said Tuesday that he was convinced he would have defeated Van Hollen if he entered the race.
“But just because you can win a race, doesn’t mean that’s the job you should do if your heart’s not in it. And I just didn’t see myself being a U.S. senator,” he said.
While Hogan will not run for the Senate in 2022, the possibility of a presidential run in 2024 remains a distinct possibility. Hogan has positioned himself to run as a legitimate alternative to Trump and his divisive politics, although the Maryland governor would open a prospective presidential primary campaign as an overwhelming underdog given Trump’s dominant standing in the GOP.
Perhaps to that end, a Hogan-aligned outside group released a video Tuesday afternoon highlighting Hogan’s calls for unity from last week’s State of the State address.
“George Washington warned that partisanship would create a spirit of revenge that would undermine the reins of government and lead to the ruins of public liberty,” Hogan says in the video, which includes references to abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, as well as Thurgood Marshall, the Supreme Court’s first Black Justice.
Hogan added: “We still believe in the power of coming together to change things for the better. And we still believe that what unites us is greater than that which divides us.”
Hogan’s bipartisan approach might not appeal to Trump’s political base, but he is poised to leave office at the end of the year as one of the nation’s most popular Republican governors.
He vowed to continue to be an active voice in national politics.
“I’m going to continue to call it like I see it. And I’ll be speaking out about the divisiveness and dysfunction in Washington, and about fixing the broken politics," Hogan said. "My current job as governor runs until January of 2023 and then we’ll take a look and see what the future holds after that.”
Peoples reported from New York.