CHARLESTOWN — Governor Larry Hogan was unable to attend a re-election campaign fundraiser Thursday night at The Wellwood Restaurant, disappointing many who paid $250 for the chance to chat with him one-on-one.
Hogan, who was recently diagnosed with stage 3, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, had just completed five days of around-the-clock chemotherapy at University of Maryland Medical Center Wednesday. His staff said he returned to his office Thursday.
Cecil Business Leaders for Better Government, a local political action committee, organized and hosted the event, which was the first fundraiser in the state for Hogan’s re-election campaign. A ticket to attend the main event, from 6 to 8 p.m., cost $100, while those who paid extra got to show up early.
All who attended were promised a “rain check” for a future event with Hogan.
Mario Gangemi, a board member of CBL, didn’t cancel the fundraiser, which was planned prior to Hogan’s diagnosis, because Hogan’s staff said the governor was going to make every effort to attend.
“You will all be taken care of at a future event,” Gangemi said, after apologizing to the crowd.
Several of the approximately 150 people who showed up to the fundraiser Thursday expressed disappointment, but also said they understood. Many said they didn’t really expect Hogan to come.
The event ended with everyone signing a giant get well card for the governor.
Steve Crim, Hogan’s director of public affairs and former campaign manager, told the crowd that the strength of Hogan’s support keeps the governor going.
“We really do appreciate the love everyone has shown,” Crim said before reflecting on his last visit to The Wellwood, which was during Hogan’s campaign about a year ago.
“We were building momentum then with our focus on change,” said Crim.
In part, Crim attributed Hogan’s successful bid to the fact the campaign was “selling something people were buying,” emphasizing a reduction of taxes as the strongest message.
Hogan garnered 78 percent of the vote in Cecil County’s general election, helping elect him as only the second Republican governor in Maryland in the last 50 years.
“We really didn’t have an aggressive agenda at all,” Crim recalled. “Our big thing we were able to do was to roll back the tolls. We were very pleased with that.”
That brought a loud round of applause from the crowd.
“We are focusing now on improving the economy and the business climate,” Crim said.
Maryland Secretary of Planning David Craig, a former Harford County executive, said he thinks Hogan has put together a strong team.
“Yesterday was the best day for Cecil County,” Craig noted on Thursday night. “We finally got lower tolls.”
On Wednesday, Hogan’s toll rollbacks went into effect, impacting a variety of bridges, tunnels and highways across the state. In western Cecil County, the rollbacks mean that those who use E-ZPass will see a fee of $6 versus the previous $7.20. Those who pay cash will still be charged $8 at the two crossings over the Susquehanna River.
During the event, Craig reminded county residents – sometimes forgotten under previous administrations – that they are on the governor’s mind.
“We appreciate Cecil County and you won’t be the orphan of the state anymore,” Craig said.
And it looks like residents will be returning the favor.
Hogan’s staff brought lime green #hoganstrong bracelets and bumper stickers, but ran out of bracelets to give out. The color represents non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma awareness and the messages has so far been a rallying cry for Hogan supporters. A matching website went live over the weekend and provides a place for anyone to send greetings to Hogan.