Larry Hogan is not Martin O’Malley. Not even close. And while this raises a number of concerns for groups pursuing progressive agendas in Maryland, there is currently optimism that, on a number of issues, enough common ground may exist between progressives and a Hogan administration to move legislation forward.

Charly Carter2

Charly Carter, executive director of Maryland Working Families.

“I think that there is some cause for concern about Hogan,” said Charly Carter, executive director of Maryland Working Families, a grassroots political organization that seeks to improve the lot of working-class families by way of a progressive agenda.

“I think that Larry Hogan was unabashedly a conservative when he ran. . . . He’s certainly talked about shrinking government and cutting taxes—particularly the corporate tax rate—and I think all of those things can lead us to believe that we do face some challenges from him,” said Carter.

According to Carter, because Maryland is facing a revenue shortfall and Hogan has expressed a commitment to the idea of shrinking government, there are grounds for concern that Hogan might freeze hiring at state agencies, attempt to reduce the number of public employees or leave key appointed positions—particularly in the social services arena—open in order to cripple the ability of agencies or departments within agencies, to accomplish their mission.

Sara Love, public policy director for the ACLU MD.

On some issues, however, Carter does see potential common ground. She cites the success of minimum wage increases and paid sick leave measures in red states during this last election as an area where even conservative voters seem to be on board with an agenda item traditionally seen as the province of liberals.

“ should be something we should be able to work on together and we’re hopeful we can do that,” she said.

Similarly, Sara Love, public policy director for the ACLU MD, sees a number of areas—including mass incarceration and overuse of SWAT teams—where progressives and Republicans like Hogan can work together.

“We spend so much on mass incarceration that we could make a system that is more fair, just and more fiscally responsible. We look forward to working with the governor on that,” said Love, who notes that Hogan has already stated a willingness to grant parole to persons given life sentences as juveniles.

Just as high incarceration rates impose heavy costs on the state, so do the overuse of SWAT teams.

“They’re incredibly expensive,” said Love. “These are highly trained law enforcement officials, so from a fiscal standpoint overuse of them doesn’t make fiscal sense.”

Love is optimistic that fiscal concerns on the right will combine with social justice concerns on the left to move legislation forward on a number of these issues, noting that in her experience of Maryland, Republicans and Democrats do actually work together.

BeBebeVendery1be Verdery, director of the Education Reform Project at the ACLU of Maryland.

Bebe Verdery, director of the Education Reform Project at the ACLU of Maryland, says that since 2009, when the recession hit, funding for Maryland schools has been rather flat as the state sought to balance its budget, causing schools to lose ground.

“Under a new administration that has vowed to roll back some taxes, we would have a concern that education could be one place you decide to cut,” said Verdery, who hopes that Hogan will recognize the value to all counties of state funding for public schools.

Changes to the formula that determines how much the state gives to public schools, however, would require legislative action by the General Assembly. Verdery notes that while there is some discretionary state aid that could be cut directly by the governor-elect, the formula itself is largely safe in light of the current make-up of the General Assembly.

Jeff Pittman, communications director of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (ASCMEF) Council 3, which represents state employees in Maryland, says his union is eager to work with both Democrats and Republicans to ensure that state workers have the means necessary to provide the various services they are tasked with, and which they must provide regardless of the budget situation.

“At this point we’re feeling it out. There are a lot of new folks, Republicans and Democrats, in the legislature. We’re reaching out to all of them,” said Pittman, who noted that his union was cautiously optimistic about their ability to work with Hogan as well as the new faces in the General Assembly.

Pittman did, however, describe his union’s experience of negotiating with former Republican governor Robert Ehrlich, in whose administration Hogan worked, as a “bitter experience.”

“We’re still hopeful that Hogan will honor his word that he really wants to be a different kind of governor. That’s why we’re reaching out,” said Pittman.

The saving grace for all of these groups, whose agenda items are most commonly found on the left side of the political ledger, is that the General Assembly is still largely Democratic. It is therefore unlikely to capitulate to the political concerns of the governor as often happened under O’Malley with progressive agenda items, according to Carter.

“We don’t have that problem anymore,” said Carter. “There’s a very clear distinction between what this governor will want, and what the legislature will want, and I don’t think this legislature will be as concerned about hurting the reputation of the governor or hurting his feelings. I think that, in a way, helps us.”

ralejandro@afro.com