Hogan's here

In first major Senate stump speech, Hogan blasts Van Hollen, praises Cardin on Israel

The former governor’s remarks showcase the importance of Jewish voters as a swing voting bloc in this year’s Senate race

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Maryland Governor Larry Hogan speaks to guests at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting on November 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In remarks to members of Maryland’s Jewish community on Friday, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, now running for Senate, denounced Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s (D-MD) positioning on Israel, while pledging to follow closely in retiring Sen. Ben Cardin’s (D-MD) footsteps on Jewish community issues.

Hogan, an anti-Trump Republican, made his first major public appearance as a Senate candidate in Maryland at the Beth Sholom Congregation in Potomac, Md., at an event organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. 

That Hogan chose to deliver his first campaign speech with a focus on Israel and antisemitism is an indication that he sees the Jewish community as a persuadable voting bloc amid Democrats’ fractures on Israel policy.

Hogan blasted Van Hollen, whom he described as failing to lead and as “one of the most hostile voices against Israel in the entire United States Senate.” The Maryland senator has argued that Israel is violating international law and that the U.S. should suspend arms sales unless there are changes in Israel’s humanitarian efforts.

“At this critical moment, Maryland needs a pro-Israel champion in the United States Senate who will stand up and fight for our closest and most important ally,” he said.

Speaking subsequently to reporters, Hogan said he felt Van Hollen has “never been a big supporter of Israel or the Jewish community in Maryland,” but that he’s crossed a further line during the current war.

Van Hollen’s reputation has taken a hit in the state’s sizable Jewish community; last week, a group of more than 70 cross-denominational rabbis sent a letter condemning his rhetoric on Israel.

Van Hollen said in a statement to JI that he has “repeatedly and unreservedly spoken out about the horrors of the Hamas terrorist attacks,” “the right of Israel to defend itself and eliminate the military threat of Hamas” and the need to immediately free all of the hostages. He noted that he voted for the national security supplemental bill which provided additional aid to Israel and Gaza.

“I also believe that a just war must be fought justly. That is why I have continued to express my deep concerns about the actions taken by the Netanyahu government in the face of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” he continued. “I don’t think most Marylanders support a position of giving a blank check to Netanyahu’s policies.” 

He added that he believes that Israel is in violation of U.S. law requiring the suspension of offensive arms sales to countries that obstruct U.S. humanitarian aid efforts.

“I have made clear that I continue to support providing Israel with defensive weapons — including supporting the Iron Dome — but as required by the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act, we should suspend the delivery of bombs and offensive weapons for use in Gaza, unless the Netanyahu Government lifts the current restrictions and allows the delivery of aid to starving people in Gaza,” he continued.

In contrast, Hogan said in his remarks that he had “a great deal of respect for Sen. Ben Cardin” and said he “should be commended for his consistent and strong support for Israel, in the face of pressure from the loudest and angriest voices.”

“I want you to know that if I have the honor of becoming your next senator, that is exactly the kind of leadership you will continue to see from me,” Hogan continued.

In his speech, the former businessman sought to tie his two potential Democratic opponents — Rep. David Trone (D-MD) and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks — to Van Hollen on Israel policy, accusing them of demanding an immediate and unilateral Israeli cease-fire and of drawing equivalences between Israel’s military operations and Oct. 7.

He said that too many of Maryland’s politicians, including members of the state’s congressional delegation, are “not standing up at all, or they’re on the wrong side” of the current war and the spike in antisemitism at home.

The former governor argued that the path to ending the war is for Hamas to surrender and release all of the hostages.

Hogan also said he was “shocked and outraged” by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) speech calling for new elections and new leadership in Israel.

“This isn’t [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s war, this is Israel’s war… We shouldn’t have an American politician, especially one who’s Jewish, tell the people in Israel what they should do about the politics,” he said. “Trying to [say] it’s all [Netanyahu’s] fault that we’re in this situation — we’re in this situation because of the terrorist attack on Oct. 7.”

He told reporters that he felt the Senate majority leader had “switch[ed] sides.”

Hogan said his Senate run was directly inspired by the failure in the Senate of a joint Israel, Ukraine and immigration bill, which Republicans rejected, largely at former President Donald Trump’s behest, following months of negotiations.

“The fact that it fell apart, and we don’t have any of the solutions to any of those problems now is very frustrating,” Hogan told reporters. “That’s why I stepped up.”

Hogan highlighted in his remarks that he had resigned from two fellowships at Harvard University earlier this year in reaction to the university’s response to the Oct. 7 attack.

“Oct. 7 was one of these critical moments that represent a time for choosing,” Hogan said. He added that he’s been “disappointed” in the lack of state and county leaders in Maryland speaking out against antisemitism.

He added, referring to the proliferation of antisemitic incidents on college campuses and elsewhere since Oct. 7 that, “the lessons of history are crystal clear. We must all take a stand in the face of genocidal acts,” denouncing efforts to justify or equivocate about the Oct. 7 attack.

An audience member noted that Hogan had attended AIPAC’s leadership summit in Washington earlier in the week.

During the speech, Hogan touted his work as Maryland’s governor to build business and cultural ties between his state and Israel, combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and support the Jewish community against antisemitism.

The former Maryland governor, who was at one time seen as a possible candidate for No Labels’ third-party presidential ticket, vowed that he would not vote for former President Donald Trump in the November election. He said he’s also not supportive of President Joe Biden, and indicated that he’s hopeful that No Labels is able to put forward a strong candidate.

He emphasized his record as a bipartisan moderate as key to his pitch in the deeply blue state, acknowledging that he faces an uphill battle as a Republican and with Trump at the top of the ticket.

“I’ve got to convince people that regardless of party affiliation, that I’m the person that they’d like to see represent them in the Senate,” he said. “And that’s an enormous task.”

He argued that he can play a critical role in the Senate as a dissenting, moderating voice who can “shake thing up” and “have the courage to stand up to both sides” in what’s likely to be a Republican-controlled Senate — more so than “one more freshman Democrat.”

Ron Halber, the JCRC’s executive director, told reporters that the JCRC plans to have additional events with Alsobrooks and Trone. He predicted that Israel policy — usually not the top issue for many Jewish voters at the ballot box — will likely “for the first time in recent decades” be a top-priority issue for many following the Oct. 7 attack.

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