Hogan Endorses Vignarajah for Baltimore State’s Attorney – Baltimore Sun
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan backed Thiru Vignarajah in the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Democratic primary.
Democrat Marilyn Mosby, a frequent target of Hogan’s criticism, now holds the post.
The endorsement is the first time Hogan has officially endorsed a Democratic candidate, and the first time the two-term governor has weighed in on a Democratic primary, according to Vignarajah’s campaign and Hogan’s office.
Hogan cited the ongoing violent crime in Baltimore in his support for Vignarajah. Homicides and shootings in the city top the previous year, which was the seventh consecutive year with at least 300 murders. A campaign ad from Vignarajah included a statement from the governor.
“For too long, violent criminals have been allowed to terrorize the streets of Baltimore with impunity,” Hogan said. “Every day, the people of Baltimore are paying a high price for this failure with lost loved ones, terrified families and countless lost potentials. This crisis goes beyond partisan politics. It’s not about right or left. It is a question of good and bad.
Hogan described Vignarajah, a former municipal, state and federal prosecutor, as the candidate with the experience needed to “rebuild trust, hold violent criminals accountable and make our streets safer.”
His endorsement comes after Vignarajah publicly backed a series of crime bills that Hogan introduced in the legislature. Hogan’s political lobbying group, the Change Maryland Action Fund, ran digital ads touting Vignarajah’s support for Hogan’s legislation.
The governor is limited in time to seek another term, but reportedly plans to visit key states in the presidential race.
Hogan’s endorsement adds to a primal race that could be defined by Mosby’s federal indictment. The two-term Democrat has not officially entered the race to retain her seat.
Mosby says she is innocent of two counts of perjury and two counts of misrepresentation on loan applications to buy a pair of properties in Florida. His campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.
Mosby and Hogan have publicly argued over crime in Baltimore and his record as the city’s elected prosecutor. The Governor has often described Mosby as soft on violent criminals, while Mosby accused Hogan of “relentless dog whistling attacks over Baltimore crime.”
Hogan’s support for Vignarajah could cause Mosby supporters to rally around her given their feuds, while Democratic voters could be put off by a Republican-endorsed candidate, said faculty dean Roger Hartley. in public affairs from the University of Baltimore. But the governor counts as bipartisan support and the issue of crime crosses party lines, meaning Hogan’s backing could be a boon for Vignarajah.
“Some political scientists say endorsements don’t matter, but unusual ones might. And that’s unusual for this time,” Hartley said, referring to the intense partisanship in politics.
About 77% of Baltimore’s registered voters are Democrats. In the 2018 gubernatorial election, approximately 67% of Baltimore voters opted for Democrat Ben Jealous and 32% for Hogan.
Vignarajah is a latecomer in the race. He announced his candidacy on March 22, after lawyer Roya Hanna dropped out of the Democratic primary to run as an independent in the general election. Hanna is still listed as a Democratic candidate on the State Board of Elections website, while Vignarajah’s name does not yet appear.
Defense attorney Ivan Bates is also running as a Democrat for state attorney, creating the possibility of a rerun of the 2018 Democratic primary. In that race, Mosby won comfortably; Bates and Vignarajah split the remainder of the vote.
Bates surpassed Mosby and Hanna in the year before the primary election, now set for July 19.
Vignarajah needs to raise funds quickly, and Hogan’s endorsement could help with that, Hartley said.
“There are people out of town who care about this race. There are Republicans who care about this race. While it won’t change much for voters, it might help [Vignarajah] with political organizing and fundraising and other issues that might help his campaign.
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Bates responded to the governor’s support for Vignarajah with a statement touting his own endorsements, which include former mayor Sheila Dixon, Mosby’s predecessor as state’s attorney; Gregg Bernstein; Wanda Keyes Heard, retired Chief Justice of the Baltimore Circuit Court, and a handful of former Baltimore police officials.
“I remain laser focused to provide the accountability, leadership and experience needed to end the epidemic of gun violence in Baltimore,” Bates said.
The state attorney race will be Vignarajah’s third campaign for a citywide position in five years. The former prosecutor ran for mayor in 2020. He came in fourth with 11.5% of the vote amid a packed field that included winner Brandon Scott, former T. Rowe Price executive Dixon Mary Miller and then-Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young.
Vignarajah emerged from his past campaigns beaten after two incidents, both captured on video, came to light. Vignarajah was recorded with a woman in a hotel room in 2015 as she pressured him into revealing secrets about his work at the Maryland Attorney General’s office. Vignarajah was arrested by Baltimore police in 2019 and was recorded asking an officer to turn off his body-worn camera.
Vignarajah said in a statement Thursday that he was grateful for Hogan’s endorsement and that the issue of public safety was more important than politics.
“Tackling violent crime is supposed to be the job of local leaders. For eight years, the governor has done his best to support the city in its fight against violent crime,” Vignarajah said. “But Governor Hogan knows that without leadership at the local level, this fight is infinitely more difficult than it should be.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Emily Opilo contributed to this article.