Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who left office as one of the few prominent Republican critics of former President Donald Trump, will run for U.S. Senate in his home state.
Hogan announced his plans in a video posted to social media Friday, hours before the filing deadline in the race.
Evoking his father’s decision as a Republican congressman to back the impeachment of then-Republican President Richard Nixon, Hogan lamented the lack of “leadership” and “willingness to put country over party.” And he leaned on his time as governor to make his pitch to voters in a blue state where he’s had electoral success.
“My fellow Marylanders, you know me. For eight years we proved that the toxic politics that divide our nation need not divide our state,” Hogan said.
“One party alone can’t fix it,” he continued. “We desperately need leaders willing to stand up to both parties, leaders who appreciate that not one of us have all the answers or all the power.”
I am running for the United States Senate – not to serve one party – but to stand up to both parties, fight for Maryland, and fix our nation’s broken politics. It’s what I did as Maryland’s governor, and it’s exactly how I’ll serve Maryland in the Senate. Let’s get back to work. pic.twitter.com/d0TuZchAtN
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) February 9, 2024
Hogan immediately becomes the front-runner for his party’s nomination, as possibly the only Republican in the state who could make the race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin competitive.
While Democratic Gov. Wes Moore won his election in 2022 with more than 64% of the vote, he did so against a candidate from the party’s right flank. Hogan won two terms in the blue state, including a 12-point win in 2018, two years after Democrat Hillary Clinton won the state at the presidential level by almost 27 points.
But it will still be an uphill climb for the Republican, and there’s no shortage of prominent Democrats running for the seat.
Rep. David Trone, D-Md., has spent more than $19 million on ads so far in the race as he looks for a promotion to the upper chamber. He’s touting the endorsements of dozens of his House colleagues, including House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York.
Trone is running against Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, whose campaign has struggled in the early months of the primary, though she has earned the endorsements of Moore; state Senate President Bill Ferguson; state Speaker of the House Adrienne Jones; and Sens. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Raphael Warnock of Georgia and others.
Trone, Alsobrooks and the Democratic Senate campaign arm all put out statements framing the threat of a Republican takeover of the seat as a step closer to national restrictions on abortion rights.
Democratic lawmakers overrode a 2022 Hogan veto of legislation expanding who could perform abortions, and he told the Washington Examiner in 2023 that “I am for the states’ rights and ability to have reasonable restrictions on abortion,” but added that he supports exceptions on abortion restrictions.
Shortly after the news broke, Van Hollen told reporters that Democrats shouldn’t take Hogan’s bid lightly, but that he remains “confident that the Democratic nominee will prevail.”
But even if Hogan faces tough odds in flipping the Senate seat, his profile and political strength could at the very least force Democrats to pay attention to a race they were hoping to ignore, particularly as they face a difficult Senate map that has them on the defensive.
Hogan’s electoral success in Maryland is unique for a Republican. In 2018 he became the first GOP governor in 64 years to win a second term. He did so by presenting himself as a more centrist Republican resistant to Trump’s rightward pull on the party.
In 2016, Hogan wrote in his father — a former Maryland congressman who was among the first Republicans to call for Nixon’s impeachment during Watergate — when casting a vote for president. In 2020, Hogan said he voted for Ronald Reagan.
Until recently, Hogan had a leadership role with No Labels, the group interested in pushing a bipartisan, third-party presidential ticket in 2024, prompting speculation about his own political plans. He then endorsed former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley over Trump for this year’s GOP presidential nomination.
In an interview last month with NBC News, Hogan said he was concerned about the future of the party if Trump won the nomination and another term in the White House. He said he was pondering his own role in the party and acknowledged that independent-minded, anti-Trump Republicans like him could be left without a political home if Haley falls short of denying the former president the nomination.
“That’s the million-dollar question that I’m not sure I have the answer to,” Hogan said then. “A lot of people are trying to figure that out. It’s a long ways to figuring out who the nominee will be and a long ways until November.”
Seven other Republicans have filed to run for Senate in Maryland.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com