Potomac businessman Neal Simon—seeking to become the first person in Maryland history to win a U.S. Senate seat running as an independent—got a boost Thursday when Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, told Simon that he had cast his ballot for him during early voting.
“I am pleased to have earned Gov. Hogan’s vote,” Simon said in a statement. “I believe we have much in common in our desire to govern from the middle to achieve great things for our state and our country.”
Simon, who is on leave from his position as CEO of a Rockville-based asset management firm, announced in February he would seek to oust Sen. Ben Cardin of Baltimore, a Democrat seeking his third term. The Republican candidate in the race, Towson University political science instructor Tony Campbell of Baltimore, emerged from an 11-way GOP primary in June.
According to a Simon spokeswoman, Simon encountered Hogan in Baltimore on Thursday—and the governor told Simon, within earshot of several people, how he had voted in the Senate contest.
A Hogan campaign spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why Hogan had declined to vote for Campbell as the Senate nominee of his party. Campbell has been running a thinly funded campaign as a hardline conservative, while Hogan has sought to cast himself as a moderate in a heavily Democratic state—while keeping his political distance from President Donald Trump. Following the 2016 election, Hogan disclosed he had written in the name of his father, former U.S. Rep. Lawrence Hogan Sr., for president rather than vote for Trump.
Simon has sought to paint Cardin as part of a partisan structure on Capitol Hill that Simon has blamed for the legislative gridlock in Congress in recent years. Likewise, Hogan has been seeking to become the first Maryland Republican to win re-election as governor since the 1950s by casting himself as someone who has consistently sought to work across the political aisle. Simon has sought to reach for Hogan’s coattails, formally endorsing Hogan’s re-election earlier this month while earlier saying he would like to see the governor win a second term. “The governor’s non-partisan leadership is a great example of what can happen when our leaders put the interests of its citizens above partisan loyalty,” Simon said in his statement Thursday. “He has brought Marylanders together on common ground, achieving big benefits for our great state’s economy, environment and education. I will do the same in the U.S. Senate if Marylanders elect me on Nov. 6.”
But while several polls show Hogan with a double-digit lead over his Democratic rival, Ben Jealous, going into Election Day, the only two public surveys in the Senate race have shown Simon running a distant third behind Cardin.
The most recent public polling in the Senate race, conducted by Gonzales Research and Media Services earlier this month and underwritten by the Simon campaign, showed Cardin with 49 percent to 21 percent for Campbell and 12 percent for Simon—although, once undecided voters were asked how they were leaning, Simon’s share of the vote rose to just under 18 percent.
A September poll by Goucher College’s Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center had Cardin at 56 percent, with Campbell trailing with 17 percent and Simon with just 8 percent.
Simon has shown a willingness to invest substantial personal funds in his candidacy; the most recent reports filed with the Federal Election Commission disclosed that he has loaned his campaign committee nearly $950,000, on top of about $875,000 raised from outside contributors.
Hogan’s support for Simon came a day after The Washington Post editorial page strongly endorsed Cardin for re-election—with a swipe at both Simon and Campbell. “Unfortunately for his rivals, none of them particularly qualified for high elective office, longevity has dimmed neither his energy nor his abilities,” the Post said of the 75-year-old Cardin, who has held elected office in the state since the 1960s—in the Maryland General Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives prior to his initial election to the Senate in 2006.