Larry Hogan makes an 11th hour U.S. Senate bid in hopes of becoming the first sitting or former governor from the Old Line State to win election to the Senate in nearly 80 years

Steve Daines and the National Republican Senate Committee got their wish last week when former two-term Maryland Governor Larry Hogan filed his paperwork to run for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat this cycle.

Hogan was one of the nation’s most popular governors with his respective constituency when he left office in January 2023. That said, there have been recent electoral examples that demonstrate how difficult it is for even well-liked governors from states with an opposing strong partisan lean to win a seat in the U.S. Senate [e.g. Tennessee Democrat Phil Bredesen in 2018 and Montana Democrat Steve Bullock in 2020].

While the road from Annapolis to Washington, D.C. is only 30 miles, this pathway to the nation’s upper legislative chamber has only been sought by a handful of sitting or former Maryland governors during the direct election era.

The first to do so was Democrat John Walter Smith. Smith, a former State Senator and U.S. Representative, served as governor from 1900 to 1904 and was initially elected to the U.S. Senate by the state legislature in 1908.

In 1914, Smith was reelected – this time directly by the people – with a 7.1-point victory over former state Progressive Party Chair Colonel Edward Carrington. [Smith would come up short in his bid for a third term in 1920, losing by 4.0 points to Republican National Senatorial Committee Treasurer Ovington Weller].

In 1916, former Republican Governor Phillips Goldsborough (1912-1916) lost the GOP primary to physician and former State Senator Joseph France. The 1.6-point victory by France over the ex-governor remains the most competitive GOP U.S. Senate primary across the 38 contests held since 1913.

However, Goldsborough would win his party’s nomination unopposed in 1928 and go on to defeat one-term Senator William Bruce by 8.8 points that November. He did not seek a second term in 1934.

The next Maryland Governor to campaign for a U.S. Senate seat was former state executive Harry Nice in 1940. Nice served as governor from 1935 to 1939 but lost his reelection bid in 1938 to Maryland Attorney General Herbert O’Connor.

Two years later, Nice handily won the GOP nomination against former Baltimore Mayor William Broening by 21.2 points but was crushed by one-term Senator George Radcliffe in the general by 31.3 points.

Nice was the last Republican governor from Maryland to run for the U.S. Senate until Hogan this cycle.

In 1946, the aforementioned Governor Herbert O’Connor ended his second term in Annapolis (1939-1947) by first defeating two-term Senator George Radcliffe for the Democratic nomination in June and then eking out a 0.5-point win in November against business executive and U.S. Army officer (and veteran of three wars) D. John Markey.

Since O’Connor, no sitting or former governor from Maryland has won a U.S. Senate seat over the subsequent 76 years – and only one made such an attempt.

In 1986, two-term Democratic Governor Harry Hughes (1979-1987) ran for the state’s open Class III seat but placed a distant third in an eight-candidate Democratic primary with 14.3 percent in a race won by five-term U.S. Representative Barbara Mikulski.

If Hogan wins the GOP nomination in May, he hopes to fare better than his father, Lawrence Hogan, during his 1982 U.S. Senate bid. The Prince George’s County Executive and former U.S. Representative lost the general election by 26.9 points to Democratic Senator Paul Sarbanes.

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  1. John Chessant on February 14, 2024 at 9:59 pm

    If Hogan is elected, he would join Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) as a senator with a parent who was a losing nominee for the Senate. [Capito’s father was three-term Gov. Arch A. Moore, who ran for the Senate in 1978 but lost to Democratic incumbent Jennings Randolph.]

    Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is also in this category, as his mother Lenore Romney ran for the Senate from Michigan in 1970, losing to Democratic incumbent Philip Hart; however, Romney will be retiring at the end of this Congress, before Hogan would hypothetically be sworn in.

    Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is also worth a mention as his father is former Rep. Ron Paul, who ran for the Senate from Texas in 1984 but lost the GOP primary to Phil Gramm. Meanwhile, Lisa Murkowski (R-Ak.) is the only current senator with a parent who also served in the Senate, namely her father Frank Murkowski who served in the same seat from 1981 to 2002.

  2. Flickertail-Pembina on February 15, 2024 at 8:30 am

    A Hogan US senate victory this year arguably would be most noteworthy – in terms of prevailing on strongly unfavorable presidential electoral turf – since the Democratic victories in AK in 2008 and NE in 2000, as well as the Republican victories in AR in 1996 and GA in 1980.

  3. Connor Cobb on February 19, 2024 at 10:03 pm

    IN has a lot of house retirements this year but there are 2 former congressmen (Marlin Stutzman
    and John Hostettler) attempting a return after years of absence.

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