2014 MARYLANDER OF THE YEAR AND LEADER TO WATCH IN 2015

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This week Center Maryland is taking a quick look back at some of Maryland’s top achievers from 2014 so that we know who to watch in 2015.

* Monday, 1/5: Best Lawyer
* Tuesday, 1/6: Best Non-Profit
* Wednesday, 1/7: Best Developer
* Thursday, 1/8: Marylander of the Year

2014 MARYLANDER OF THE YEAR AND LEADER TO WATCH IN 2015:

Larry Hogan Jr.

Governor-elect

State of Maryland

A year ago, Larry Hogan Jr. was unknown to the state’s vast voting majority. He wasn’t much better known even after he won the Republican primary for governor in June. After all, Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in Maryland, so the GOP nominee usually has the thankless task of losing gracefully.

Not this time.

Hogan upended all the political norms in staging a surprisingly convincing victory in the November general election.

He did it by defusing political partisanship, focusing like a laser on economic issues and presenting himself as a centrist businessman, not a hardened politician.

Voters liked what they heard, especially in contrast to the shrill fear-mongering and robotic campaign of his Democratic foe, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

Now Hogan must show he knows how to govern. His appointments to date have drawn praise. For instance, Ben Grumbles’ appointment to MDE “wowed” longtime observers from around the country. D.C. veterans remarked that such a national figure was ”a high quality hire for a State environmental chief."

The key post of state health secretary went to former Del. Van Mitchell, who comes to the job after having served previously as chief deputy of the department. Mitchell also is a businessman – and a Democrat: Just the right combination to narrow the differences between the two parties in Annapolis.

Hogan’s selections of George Owings III (Veterans Affairs), Al Redmer, Jr. (Maryland Insurance Commissioner), and Joe Bartenfelder (Agriculture), as well as the potential retention of Devon Dodson (Energy) give the governor-elect a diverse, bi-partisan collection of appointees with deep ties to the legislature and business community.

Hogan must guard against repeating the mistakes of the last GOP governor, Bob Ehrlich, who alienated Democratic lawmakers and left with few lasting accomplishments. Focusing on problem-solving instead of political ideological is essential for the governor-elect.

Larry Hogan Jr. ran a brilliant campaign and defied the common wisdom. Can he do it again by running state government like a business in which he views Democrats in the legislature as amicable partners rather hostile opponents?

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