U.S. Rep. John Delaney has not said whether he’ll run for governor in 2018, but on Friday he criticized Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s job performance.
After an event discussing the potential local impacts of President Donald Trump’s budget held at Montgomery College in Rockville, Bethesda Beat asked the Democrat how Hogan has been performing since being elected in 2014.
“I don’t think the governor has the right economic vision for the state,” Delaney said. “I don’t think he’s been able to work with the state legislature to really get anything material done. I think the things he’s done have largely been things under his control. His two noteworthy achievements—which were to lower tolls and prohibit schools from starting after Labor Day—I think are fundamentally bad policy.”
Delaney said education advocates were largely against starting school after Labor Day. Education leaders in Montgomery County initially opposed starting school after Labor Day because they wanted to retain local control over the scheduling of the school system’s yearly calendar.
Delaney said Hogan’s decision to lower tolls takes money away from road improvement projects.
“If you go to someone and say, ‘Do you want to pay lower tolls?’—of course they do,” Delaney said. “But if you said to them in a more informed way, ‘Do you want to pay lower tolls and over time have the quality of your roads erode because we won’t have the money to improve them?’, then I think most people would give a more measured answer there. But that’s not how the polls go.”
Delaney also noted that Hogan has been unable to work with the Democratic-controlled state legislature.
“I mean he calls them a bunch of spring breakers who party during the session,” Delaney said. “It’s not constructive.” The congressman was referring to a comment Hogan made on talk radio in 2016, which drew a rebuke from state legislators.
Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chassé responded to Delaney’s comments in an email, saying Hogan’s record speaks for itself. She said Maryland has added 100,000 new jobs since he took office and the administration has worked to hold the line on state spending while reducing costs for Marylanders.
“I’m sure the majority of Marylanders will be interested to learn that a member of their federal delegation thinks toll relief is bad policy, and not something that’s really important to the average Maryland family,” Chassé wrote.
She also said Maryland has “one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation.” However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked the state’s 4.2 percent unemployment rate as 26th in the country in May.
Should he decide to run, Delaney would be considered a leading Democratic challenger to Hogan. Delaney said he still plans to formally announce his plans at the end of July. He previously said he would announce a decision at the end of June, but then extended his timeline a month.
Other Democrats who have already announced plans to take on Hogan include former NAACP President Ben Jealous, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, state Sen. Richard Madaleno, Baltimore lawyer Jim Shea and entrepreneur Alec Ross. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is also expected to enter the race.
Delaney has criticized the governor in the past, but mostly over national issues. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Delaney paid for a mobile billboard calling for Hogan to announce whether he supported Trump as the Republican nominee that was driven around the State House in Annapolis. Hogan ended up writing in his father’s name for president when he cast his ballot rather than vote for Trump.
There has been some speculation that Delaney may not run for re-election or for governor and instead prepare for a presidential run in 2020. Previously, Delaney’s spokesman denied an earlier rumor that the congressman was opening an office in Iowa. When asked if he wanted to run for president, Delaney responded, “I think the comments I’ve made are all the comments I’ve made at this point.”
As Delaney mulls whether to run for a new office, several candidates are lining up for his District 6 seat should he give it up. The district extends from Potomac through Frederick County and includes all of the western Maryland panhandle. Montgomery County Dels. Aruna Miller (D-Germantown) and Bill Frick (D-Bethesda) are raising money to mount a campaign while Sen. Roger Manno (D-Silver Spring) is traveling around the district greeting voters and holding meetings. Potomac businessman David Trone, the co-owner of Total Wine & More, also has said he may choose to run for the seat, but only if Delaney doesn’t run for re-election.
Delaney said he talked with several of the candidates who could pursue his seat and has told them he’s fine with them preparing to run for it.
“They’ve all said if I don’t run for governor, they’re not going to run for the seat,” Delaney said.
At the Montgomery College event, Delaney brought together department leaders in Montgomery County government and others to discuss how federal budget cuts could impact their services. Various department leaders said proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health, Medicaid and environmental funding would harm programs offered in the county.
Delaney explained that Congress will not pass Trump’s proposed budget as proposed, but that the administration will continue to push for its priorities.
“This budget will not happen in its current form,” Delaney said. “But remember, people sat down and made decisions and decided these were priorities for the administration. While we may not agree with their priorities, we should not assume they’re done.”
He added the administration may pursue its budget goals during negotiations over continuing federal funding resolutions as well as through its executive powers.