Larry Hogan

Larry Hogan, Republican candidate for governor. (By Paul W. Gillespie, Staff / October 14, 2014)

 In “Maryland: A Middle Temperament,” Robert J. Brugger wrote that “Marylanders at their best have stood for moderation … and a sense of proportion that reminds one of the old sailors’ attention to both sail and ballast.” Maybe this is embedded in the hearts of state residents, but we haven’t seen much evidence of it in the State House lately.

Facing a brutal recession, Gov. Martin O’Malley resorted to repeated tax and fee increases, cuts to funding for local governments, and borrowing from funds supposedly reserved for specific needs. The results include a lingering structural deficit, an unemployment rate higher than the national average, an economy kept on life support by federal payrolls, taxpayers who are in a mutinous mood, and a deluge of complaints about the state’s unfriendliness to business.

The state needs to re-evaluate its course — and that re-evaluation can happen only if there’s a break in eight years of undiluted one-party rule that has been healthy for neither party.

That’s why we’re endorsing Republican Larry Hogan for governor.

An Anne Arundel County resident for two decades and the founder of an Annapolis-based real estate services company, Hogan handled appointments as a member of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.‘s Cabinet. Three-and-a-half years ago he started the grass-roots organization Change Maryland, emerging as the leading critic of the O’Malley administration’s fiscal policies.

Hogan is no partisan firebrand — he’s a businessman who believes the state needs to live within its means and encourage investment and entrepreneurship. When he met with our editorial board we were struck by his reasonable and realistic tone. If he’s elected, a predominantly Democratic legislature might ignore many of his initiatives — but it couldn’t ignore his budgets.

His opponent is Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, an earnest public servant who has had a distinguished career in the Army, including a tour of duty in Iraq. Brown has been a good soldier for O’Malley, too, for eight years, although he has rarely had a high profile — except for his nominal leadership of the state’s disastrous attempt to set up its own health care website.

Brown offers the state the attractive prospect of electing its first African-American governor. But there has been nothing attractive in his campaign’s ads, many of which smear Hogan as a sinister invader from Planet Tea Party. This was some of the worst bilge we’ve seen in a Maryland campaign.

Of late, Brown has been trying to grab as many issues as he can from Hogan, also claiming to be for tax relief and for improvement of the business climate. But which candidate is likelier to work hardest on those issues?

The basic problem with Brown isn’t his ads, but that he’s essentially offering Marylanders an O’Malley third term. That’s not what Maryland needs. The complacency of the state’s Democratic establishment — its willingness to keep doing what it has been doing, without thinking much about it — is a threat to this state’s long-term well-being.

We urge Maryland voters to puncture that complacency. We strongly urge a vote for Larry Hogan as governor.