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Baltimore Business Journal Amid 'toxic political environment,' Hogan and Franchot urge bipar

Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot come from different political parties but they both agree on at least one thing — there needs to be more bipartisanship.

Hogan, a Republican, and Franchot, a Democrat, have developed a much-publicized friendship over the last four years. They often vote the same way while serving on the Board of Public Works, and Hogan has even sometimes used his political clout to push for legislation desired by Franchot.

The two men spoke together at a Goucher College event on Wednesday. Students asked questions on topics like guns, education and transportation, but the issue that both politicians repeatedly came back to was bipartisanship. When asked about the biggest problems facing urban communities, Franchot responded by saying politicians today too often are quick to demonize their opponents. He also said politicians do not travel outside of Washington or Annapolis enough, so they are not aware of the issues their constituents actually care about.

"Working together in a bipartisan fashion is not only desperately needed in today's toxic political environment, but it is essential to ensure that government leaders are responsive to the needs of the community," Franchot said.

Though he and Hogan have different ideologies and beliefs, Franchot said they are able to work together constructively to solve problems and reach compromises. He also said he makes a point of traveling across the entire state.

Hogan said opioid and heroin addiction is one of the biggest issues affecting all communities. However, he said divisiveness in politics and partisanship is "the No. 1 issue in America and why we are not getting anything done in Washington, ever."

They both argued for nonpartisan redistricting, saying that gerrymandering has caused political polarization. Hogan said he wants the General Assembly to pass a bill he proposed earlier this year on the issue. Franchot urged those registered as independents to write to the state's party leaders and tell them to allow independents to vote in primary elections. One student asked what will be done to ensure Maryland students are safe in school in light of last month's shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead.

Maryland already has the strongest laws in the country, including a ban on assault weapons, Hogan said. He also highlighted additional funding that will be provided to schools, including $125 million for school safety measures like security systems and $50 million for counselors and school resource officers.

Franchot blamed the National Rifle Association and gerrymandering for gun violence.

The NRA portrays itself as protecting gun rights while really just defending gun manufacturers, Franchot said. It then takes advantage of Republicans in gerrymandered districts by threatening to run candidates against them if they vote for background checks.

"It's a disgusting exhibition of self interest that this organization has basically just terrorized elected officials," Franchot said. Among the other questions, students also asked Hogan and Franchot what their biggest regrets are and examples of issues where they don't agree.

The two men largely avoided answering those questions directly.

Hogan answered the question about regrets and failures by highlighting the early challenges his administration faced, like the riots in Baltimore just three months after he took office. Hogan also spoke about his bout with cancer. He went on to say he does not have any regrets.

"I know that sounds corny and that of course you must have done something, but I think one of the biggest problems in politics is people sort of say or do what they think will be popular," Hogan said. "I just do exactly what I feel. I don't have any regrets."

Franchot, on the other hand, said he regrets earlier in his career getting "roped into situations" where he demonized opponents. He also was unwilling to back down from "bullies and mahcine politician."

Though he sometimes got in trouble with Democratic leaders, Franchot noted he now has served in a statewide elected position for 12 years and said his regrets "are far outweighed by expressions of gratitude."

Neither Hogan or Franchot offered any specific examples of times they have disagreed. Instead, they focused on they have worked together.

Hogan also said he "doesn't like labels" and mentioned how he did not vote for President Donald Trump or attend the Republican National Convention.

Franchot urged "unity but not unanimity." People "don't have to be robots in politics," he said, and can work together despite differences of opinions.

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