Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley was never a serious presidential candidate, but his prospects grew dimmer when police shootings around the country forced analysis of the ‘zero tolerance’ policing policies he introduced as Baltimore City mayor during his 2015 campaign.
The same fate awaits current Governor Larry Hogan if he continues to hold on settlement negotiations in the lawsuit between the state and its four public historically black colleges. In February, Hogan lowballed the schools, their graduates and their students with a 10-year, $100 million proposed settlement that covered only a fraction of the damage caused by the state’s willful and illegal creation of a dual system of higher education for minority and white students, but didn’t even include coverage for the plaintiffs’ legal fees.
But any pressure on Hogan from within the Maryland Republican party or across the aisle in Annapolis to stall Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore out of a fair agreement will wash over his chances for a second term in a big, blue wave.
No amount of distance from Trump and no amount of collaboration with the state’s black caucus reduces Ben Jealous’ threat in a year where every Democrat, independent and conservative moderate is activated to send Trump a message with any GOP candidate they can touch with a vote. And while Jealous has been no great ally to Maryland’s HBCUs, he hasn’t yet presented himself as a political enemy.
Any presence and message Jealous presents on HBCUs will resonate with voters in the places where Hogan will have to repeat in stealing Democratic votes. Any omission of HBCUs from Hogan’s campaign speak will speak volumes to that same base.
And without any substantive movement from Hogan on a decision which could exceed Ayers v. Mississippi as the judicial lynchpin for racial equity in higher education, Hogan will move from a path of graceful avoidance of socio-political landmines centered around race on the road to a second term, to a path casting himself as the second coming of Robert Ehrlich — a red glitch in Maryland’s democratic matrix whose higher education secretary approved Towson University’s duplication of the Morgan State MBA program.
The math for a reasonable settlement does not add up in Hogan’s favor. The state estimated that the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education’s plan could cost between $1.5 and $2 billion. Mississippi’s settlement was $500 million for three HBCUs nearly 30 years ago, or over $850 million in today’s dollars.
Maryland duplication was deemed by the court to be worse than Mississippi’s constitutional violations, and there are four HBCUs involved in the Maryland litigation. So balance that $100 million proposal for four Maryland HBCUs compared to $180 million awarded to Towson University for a new science building this year.
Also unfortunate for Hogan — the politics don’t bend in his favor either. President Donald Trump in two years has kept federal HBCU funding level with Obama-era appropriations and has forgiven or deferred more than $350 million in federal loans to 10 percent of the country’s HBCUs.
Trump has done that with a simple mandate; do more for black folks than Obama did. If Hogan does less for black folks in a state with a disproportionate number of black voters and black wealth and personal investment in HBCUs, maybe the Baltimore Sun may ignore the story but the Washington Post and the New York Times will not.
And neither will black people at the ballot box.
So Hogan has what seems to be a clear choice. Be an HBCU superhero and a two-term governor with HBCU support as an engine for reelection, or be a one-term casualty claimed by the racism of Democrats past. The Trump HBCU model is working for the Republican party — why let little things like University of Maryland bias, racism and $2 billion get in the way of political destiny?