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Hogan Woos Washington-Area Democrats With New Ad

An ad released this week by Gov. Larry Hogan’s campaign spends four minutes lauding the governor’s accomplishments on more than a dozen transportation projects.

Through a series of television news clips and video of press conferences, the ad describes how Hogan advanced efforts to widen I-270, the Capital Beltway, the Baltimore Beltway and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway; extended the I-95 North toll lanes; and lowered tolls — among other things.

"It's a pretty effective ad,” said Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

The ad will likely be persuasive to voters in the suburbs, especially in the Washington area, he said. These residents usually vote Democrat, but they are crucial to Hogan’s strategy.

In 2014, Hogan won about 25 percent of Democrats, Eberly said, and to win this time, Hogan needs to maintain that support.

“These are people who care a great deal about transportation, time spent on the road as opposed to time at home,” Eberly said. “Ads like this may be what it takes to convince them that, yes, even though they're angry at Donald Trump, they don't like Republicans in general, they can feel comfortable voting for Hogan.”

Hogan already appears to be convincing many Washington-area voters. In a Gonzales poll released last week, 36 percent said they would vote for Hogan over Jealous. In Montgomery County, Hogan and Jealous are tied.

Washington-area voters are also the most likely to benefit from many of the projects in the ad, including increased funding for the Washington Metro.

“We were the first ones in the region to propose a real solution to address Metro’s half-a-billion-dollar-a-year shortfall,” Hogan says in the ad.

The Washington Metro is one of only three transit projects mentioned in the ad. The remaining projects deal with the state’s highways, roads and bridges.

That’s not surprising, said Mileah Kromer, who oversees the Goucher Poll as director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College.

“When given the choice between improving roads and highways and investing in public transportation, when you ask Marylanders across the board which one they want to see the state government do, the majority of Marylanders are going to choose improving roads and highways,” Kromer said.

When it comes to attracting Democratic voters in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, Kromer said, the other key part of the ad features a series of Democratic politicians thanking Hogan for his support of the Purple Line light rail.

“Let me acknowledge and thank our governor,” Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett says. “Despite many challenges, lawsuits, he never waivers.”

“He said he was committed to the Purple Line, and he made it happen. So let’s give him a round of applause also,” says Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker.

“Thank you, Gov. Hogan, for your commitment to this project,” says U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen.

“I want to thank Gov. Hogan to making sure that the Purple Line does in fact happen,” says U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown, who Hogan defeated in the 2014 governor’s race.

All that gratitude is the mark of a group effort by federal, state and local governments, said state Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, a Charles County Democrat and the outgoing chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

He said Hogan was a reluctant partner after he cut toll prices and tightened the purse strings.

“The federal commitment for that was made prior to the Hogan administration,” Middleton said. “There was some concerns as to whether or not he was even going to build it after the reductions in some of the tolls.”

But Kromer said people who watch the ad won’t care whether Hogan is taking credit for someone else’s work. They’ll see Democrats praising Hogan for being bipartisan.

“Being able to demonstrate that he’s worked with Democrats on a public transportation issue certainly plays well with Democrats in Montgomery County who may be on the fence between him and Ben Jealous,” Kromer said.

According to the recent Gonzales poll, nearly 35 percent of Democrats across the state say they plan to vote for Hogan in November.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
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