Maryland's Larry Hogan becomes 3rd GOP governor to decline Senate run this year

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday he would not run for Senate, becoming the third Republican governor to do so this year.

Hogan, who must leave office at the end of the year because of term limits, follows New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in declining a Senate run.

“A number of people said that they thought I could make a difference in the Senate and be a voice of common sense and moderation,” Hogan said at a news conference. “I was certainly humbled by that, and it gave me and my family reason to consider it. But as I have repeatedly said, I don’t aspire to be a United States senator, and that fact has not changed.”

The governors’ decisions come amid high hopes among Republicans that the party can retake both houses of Congress this year. After bruising losses in 2020 and 2018, the GOP is looking to capitalize on President Biden’s anemic approval ratings, the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns over inflation.

Hogan’s bid would likely have been an uphill climb despite his popularity in the state. Maryland hasn’t elected a Republican senator since 1980, and Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen, whom Hogan would have faced in a general election, won by 25 points in 2016.

Biden also won Maryland by 33 points in 2020, but some polling suggested that Hogan would have been competitive in the race, and at the very least would have forced Democrats to defend an otherwise safe seat.

Ducey, who like Hogan is term-limited, said last week that his answer about running for Senate hadn’t changed despite the fact that Republicans hoped he was warming to the opportunity following comments made in his final State of the State address in January.

Doug Ducey
Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

“I’ve answered this question several times. The answer hasn’t changed. I’m 100 percent focused on my day job,” Ducey told KTAR News in an interview, adding, “Of course it’s always satisfying or gratifying when people are encouraging you to do more in public life. I’ve got the job I want. This is a great job. I love being the governor. We want to finish strong here in Arizona and finish the job.”

Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly is up for reelection this year in Arizona, which has seen thin margins in recent statewide races. Biden narrowly carried the state in 2020, while Kelly won a special election to serve the final two years of John McCain’s term. McCain, a Republican, died in 2018.

Sununu announced his decision last November, saying he would run for reelection in New Hampshire — which has also seen tight races for Senate and president in recent cycles — instead of trying to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan. In January, Sununu told the Washington Examiner he had been set to run until he talked to sitting Republican senators.

“They were all, for the most part, content with the speed at which they weren’t doing anything,” Sununu said. “It was very clear that we just have to hold the line for two years. OK, so I’m just going to be a roadblock for two years. That’s not what I do.”

According to the Examiner report, Sununu “said the message from virtually every GOP senator he spoke with — and he spoke with most of them — was that they plan to do little more with the majority they are fighting to win this November than obstruct President Joe Biden until, ‘hopefully,’ 2024 ushers a Republican into the White House.”

“It bothered me that they were OK with that,” Sununu added.

Chris Sununu
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Sununu’s comments are in line with a December Axios report that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had told colleagues and donors that the Republicans would offer no legislative agenda going into the 2022 midterms. Per the report, McConnell rejected a push for a “positive, pro-active governing outline around which candidates can rally” in favor of “[skewering] Democrats for their perceived failures.”

In addition to that trio, Republicans had also briefly hoped that Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, one of the party’s few remaining liberal lawmakers, would run for an open Senate seat in the overwhelmingly Democratic state. But Scott, who voted for Biden, quickly rebuffed their offers last year. Biden won Vermont by 33 points two years ago.

Kelly and Hassan are both top Republican targets in the November midterms, although a clear GOP challenger has not emerged in either race. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the Arizona contest a toss-up, while giving a slight edge to Hassan in New Hampshire.

But with Hogan sitting out this year’s election as he mulls a run for president in 2024, Van Hollen is almost certain to win another term.

Hogan alluded to that fact on Monday, telling reporters he had called Van Hollen “to let him know that he can rest easy and get a good night’s sleep tonight.”