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The Family Guy

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan discusses fatherhood, politics and compromise

“I’m a lucky guy. I not only found a beautiful, intelligent, wonderful woman, but she came along with a package of three daughters.”

Father’s Day 2017 is Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s first without his father, Lawrence Hogan Sr., who he calls “the man I most admire.” In honor of his father, who died on April 20, Gov. Hogan spoke with Bay Weekly about his father’s influence on him as a politician and family man.
    Our governor sees himself as less “pugnacious” than his father, more focused on “the battles we can win” than on battles for their own sake. Restoring federal funding for the Chesapeake is, he says he believes, one we can win — despite proposed dramatic cuts.
    Two days after we spoke, Hogan was elected chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Executive Council of the six Chesapeake Bay watershed states, the District of Columbia and the Chesapeake Bay Commission. The same day the Council called on the President and U.S. Congress to continue the current level of federal support for the Chesapeake Bay Program.
    This is an edited text of our conversation.

Bay Weekly Your father was both a politician and a businessman, careers you, too, have followed. Do you see yourself as walking in his footsteps?

Gov. Hogan Dad spent a lot of life in elective office, and I never have. I spent more of my life in business. He did a lot of different things. He was a college professor, an FBI agent, ran a small business and served as a congressman for three terms and Prince Georges County executive for one term. But I learned a heck of a lot from my dad. He’s the man I most admire, and I learned a lot watching him as I was growing up.

Bay Weekly Has his influence on you deepened with age — his and yours?

Gov. Hogan It has in both respects. I think both of us grew to have more respect for each other over the years. The older I got, the more I appreciated the time I had with him and all the things he did to influence me throughout my life. One thing that sticks out is when I was diagnosed with cancer.
    It was the Friday before Father’s Day weekend, just two years ago, very close to this time. My dad was over for dinner. When I broke the news to him, it really affected him. He was crying the whole time and couldn’t eat his dinner. My wife and daughters were taking it pretty hard, but I felt worse for him. Even though he was 87 years old and I was 60 years old, I was his little boy he couldn’t help, and he felt helpless. I could tell then the kind of love and respect for me he had.
    It doesn’t matter how old your parents get, they’re still your parents. And it doesn’t matter how old we get. We’re still their kids.

Bay Weekly What standards did your father set that you’ve chosen to follow?

“I had always thought of my father as just a guy I could play with and go to games with and hang out. I didn’t realize he was larger than life.”

Gov. Hogan I say and have said before I learned a whole lot about integrity from Dad. He was an honest guy who always told you exactly what he thought. People in politics and in business would say, I don’t agree with you on the issues, but I respect the fact that you believe very strongly and are honestly telling me exactly what you think.
    That was a pretty good lesson I hope I’ve picked up from him. I try to be direct and don’t beat around the bush. They’d call him pugnacious and direct, I try not to be as … I don’t want to fight, but I do say what I think.
    He was on the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee during the Nixon Watergate impeachment hearings in 1974. An FBI agent and a lawyer, he was a loyal Republican who had campaigned hard for Nixon and was fighting to make sure he was treated fairly, making sure the committee was not just on a witch hunt. But at the end, after hearing all the evidence, he concluded I believe my president guilty of impeachable offenses. He was the first Republican to do so. He realized at the time he was ending his political career, alienating a lot of colleagues and leadership. But he thought it was the right thing to do.
    It showed tremendous courage and honesty. In that one moment in history when the whole world was focused on this, I got to see the true character of the man. I learned more and was more proud of him than at any other time.
    I had always thought of him as just a guy I could play with and go to games with and hang out. I didn’t realize he was larger than life.

Bay Weekly But we all need to set ourselves apart from our parents. In what way, one for example, did you choose to differ?

Gov. Hogan Though I was always interested in government and politics, my dad said, don’t make it your whole life. Get involved later if you feel like giving back. I stayed involved and helped other people, but I didn’t make politics my career until finally I stepped up to try to fix problems I saw in the state.
    Also my dad was pretty pugnacious, that’s the word people used, a fighter, a tough guy. I like to fight on things I think important, but I don’t like to fight over all the little things. So I’m a little more reserved and focused on the battles we can win. In that way I’m a little bit different, like my mom, who was a calming influence.

Bay Weekly Along that line, certainly you have your differences with Democrats, and you are skillful in defining your advantage, in part by coining memorable phrases like the road-kill tax. Still, politics in Maryland is far from the tribal bloodbath of Washington. How do you make that so?

Gov. Hogan It’s something I believe very strongly in. Like most people in America and in Maryland, I’m frustrated by politics and politicians, particularly in Washington. I don’t like partisanship and the name-calling, and I think one of the real problem we have today is people on both sides of the aisle who totally disagree and are at opposite ends of the spectrum, calling each other names and fighting, so that it seems like their primary mission is tearing each other down.
    I was elected with just as many Independents and Democratic votes as Republican, and I’ve tried to focus on working across the aisle with anyone who will work with us. I don’t think compromise is a dirty word, which some people seem to think. I focus on common ground and a win-win situation and understanding what other people are talking about. I’m all about finding bipartisan, commonsense solutions most people can agree with. It’s not necessarily the position espoused by the far left of the Democratic Party or the far right of the Republican Party. It’s more pragmatic: How do we solve these problems? And though we may disagree on certain issues, how do we come together?
    My private-sector career gave me some of that training because I was primarily bringing two parties together as a broker, negotiator or arbitrator. That’s what I did for 30 years and am still doing in my government job, working on how to bring people together and reach agreement.
    For example, most of our legislative agenda was passed this year —though with some disagreement.

Bay Weekly What did your father think about your setting your sights so high — governor — in your first election?

Gov. Hogan Most people did not believe I had a chance. My dad was one of the few exceptions. This is a pretty huge undertaking, he advised me, and there are going to be people attacking you and saying mean things. It’s going to be tough on the family. It’s going to be demanding. Here’s all you better be prepared for, he told me.
    But if you believe you can do it, he said, I know you’d be a great governor.
    Nobody was more excited on election night than my dad. He was pretty darn proud, and tears were rolling down his face. During the campaign, I hadn’t thought about it, but it came down to exactly 40 years since he gave up his safe seat in Congress, 1974 [to run unsuccessfully for governor], and I was elected in 2014.
    I teased him about it on election night: Dad it might be 40 years later, but we finally have a Larry Hogan as governor.
    He said, Can I come over to the mansion?
    And I said, You can come over any time you like.

Bay Weekly Did being a father prepare you for being governor?

“They’re such a close family, and I love being part of that. And now I’m also a grandfather with a beautiful four-year-old granddaughter that I spoil and we’ve got a five-month-old grandson, just baptized.

Gov. Hogan I have a unique situation. I’m a lucky guy. I not only found a beautiful, intelligent, wonderful woman, but she came along with a package of three daughters, so I got four great women at the same time. They’re my stepdaughters, but I’ve never before said the word because I love them as if they were my flesh and blood. But I missed diapers and the tough teen years.
    They’re such a close family, and I love being part of that. They didn’t have a relationship with their dad. My wife raised three daughters all by herself, working three jobs and at first not even speaking the language, coming from another country [South Korea] — tremendous hardships she overcame. The girls had not had a father figure, and I never had kids. So it was the perfect marriage. I’ve really taken to the role of being daddy.
    It does give you a different perspective. And now I’m also a grandfather with a beautiful four-year-old granddaughter that I spoil and we’ve got a five-month-old grandson, just baptized Sunday. I’m his godfather as well as his grandfather, and they’re just as cute as can be.

Bay Weekly What legacy of values do you hope to pass down to your children and grandchildren?

Gov. Hogan I think maybe some of the same things my parents instilled in me. I think the girls do look up to me, respect and trust me and come for good advice about tough decisions in their lives. I think integrity, honesty and hard work … believing in yourself and never giving up whatever tough thing they’re going through.

Bay Weekly With Chesapeake Bay, Maryland has a more evolved environmental consciousness than many states. And you’re one of many of us who has chosen to live on the Bay. Are you alarmed over federal threats to funding to restore the Bay?

Gov. Hogan I’m alarmed by it, and we’ve expressed our frustration. But we’re also working very hard to solve the problem, and I believe we will. We’ve been talking with folks in Washington. I just talked with the EPA administrator and all our members of Congress, and we’re pushing very hard to protect funding for the Chesapeake Bay. Protecting the Bay and our environment is one of our highest priorities.
    There’s a lot of talk about the $73 million in federal funding, and that’s over a five-state area, with maybe $12 million to Maryland. We put more than that in every month at the state level. We put more than $3 billion in two years into the Bay. No governor has ever invested more in Bay funding than I have.
    We’ve made a lot of progress on the Bay, though I can’t take credit for all of it. But we’re excited our investment has helped. We have the best Bay numbers in 25 years, and we’re going to keep pushing for federal funding and at the state level, where we do much, much more.