Maryland state senator announces bid for Frederick County executive

Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick). (Courtesy Maryland Matters/Danielle E. Gaines)

Maryland Senate Minority Whip Michael J. Hough (R) announced Monday that he will forego a re-election bid and instead run for Frederick County executive in 2022.

“Voters in Frederick County will face a crucial choice in next year’s election. What kind of county do we want to be? Do we continue to be a unique and wonderful community where people are proud to live, work, and raise a family? Or do we become Montgomery County North, with overcrowding, traffic gridlock, crime and high taxes,” Hough asked in the campaign announcement.

Frederick County Executive Jan H. Gardner (D), the first person to serve in the role after the county’s transition to charter government, is term-limited. Three Democrats – current councilmembers Jessica Fitzwater and Kai Hagen, and Frederick County Public Schools Director of Public Affairs Daryl Boffman, a former school board member – have also announced plans to run.

Hough has represented Frederick County in the State House since 2011, when he was sworn in to the House of Delegates. The next term, he ran for Senate, unseating Republican David Brinkley, who is now Maryland’s budget secretary, in the GOP primary. He won re-election in 2018 by a wide margin in the Republican-leaning district.

But Frederick County as a whole has become more Democratic in the last several years. Democrats gained an edge in voter registration in 2020, and the county went for a Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, for the first time in decades.

In the fall of 2020, Hough was elected by the Senate Republican Caucus as minority whip, part of a new leadership team that moved that caucus further to the right.

In his announcement, Hough touted his support for Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. and an endorsement by the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

While known for his conservative views, Hough has also established some bipartisan bona fides in Annapolis, helping to draft and pass an overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system in 2016 alongside now-Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D). Hough also joined Democrats to support civil asset forfeiture reform and tighter limitations on campaign donations by developers.

In his campaign announcement, Hough promised to limit sprawl, relieve traffic congestion and lower taxes.

“It’s past time that we gave taxpayers a break. Year after year, homeowners are forced to pay higher property taxes – this must stop,” Hough said. “I am proud during my tenure in the Maryland General Assembly to have voted against every effort to raise taxes.”

He also expressed support for the county’s continued involvement in the controversial 287(g) program, which has been the focus of county audits and debate in Annapolis. The General Assembly passed a bill along partisan lines to end counties’ detention contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement by Oct. 1, 2022; Hogan has not yet taken action on the measure.

In his day job, Hough serves as chief of staff to Rep. Alex X. Mooney (R-W.Va.), a former Maryland state senator and chairman of the Maryland GOP. West Virginia will lose a congressional district, meaning Mooney will likely have to run against a fellow incumbent next year if he wants to remain in Congress.

With Hough’s decision to leave the Senate, Del. Jesse T. Pippy (R-Frederick) wasted no time announcing Monday morning that he’s exploring a bid for the soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat.

“Our strong record as a conservative legislator and effective leader in the Maryland General
Assembly demonstrates our ability and qualifications to represent District 4 residents in the Senate,” Pippy, who was elected to the House in 2018, said in a statement. “Our constituents expect results and we look forward to continuing our public service on their behalf, making Maryland the best place to live, work and raise a family!”

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