In a recent survey, the Annapolis-based polling company OpinionWorks found a 71 percent approval rating amongst registered voters for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, including a 63 percent approval rating among registered Democrats and a 72 percent approval rating among Baltimore City residents. Only the third Republican governor of Maryland in the past half-century, Hogan’s popularity has eclipsed that of any recent governor, including his predecessor Martin O’Malley.

Gov. Hogan’s whirlwind year-and-a-half has been marked by many challenges, including responding to riots in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray and his own diagnosis and treatment for stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Throughout that time, Hogan’s approval rating hovered around 70 percent, a number that has not dropped as those events passed into the rearview mirror.

Speaking to The Baltimore Sun, St. Mary’s College political scientist Todd Eberly addressed Hogan’s continued popularity, saying: “It’s not a honeymoon, and it’s not sympathy because of cancer … These are sustained numbers.”

So why is Hogan’s popularity so high and sustained in a state where his party is outnumbered in terms of registered voters by a two-to-one margin? In evaluating Hogan’s policy priorities and measured approach to governing, it should come as no surprise that the vast majority of Marylanders in both parties approve of the job he’s doing, even in a time when politics on the national stage are bitter and polarized.

Hogan has demonstrated a laser-like focus on the issues that trouble Marylanders the most. With record investment in K-12 education, transportation projects in every county of the state, full funding for the Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund and decisions to lower fees and tolls across the state, it’s clear that he has struck a balance between funding Maryland’s priorities while finding a way to reduce the high tax and regulatory burden on everyday Marylanders.

Most telling, though, are two recent examples that highlight a trend of Hogan’s dedication to smart and effective policy changes. His decisions to provide local governments with flexibility on septic pollution controls and to have Maryland schools begin after Labor Day next year are telling about his leadership for the state.

The decision to provide county and municipal governments with greater discretion on the use of septic pollution technologies (commonly referred to as BAT) stands out in sharp contrast to the actions of O’Malley, who mandated uniform regulations across the state in an attempt to limit nitrogen pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. The central issue with O’Malley’s mandate was that it imposed high costs on local governments, especially in the regions of the state so far away from the bay that very little nitrogen would have made it to the Bay even without the regulations.

This rigid and unnecessary uniformity in septic pollution technologies was effectively addressed by Hogan, who at the same time recognized the need to protect the bay by keeping requirements for the use of BAT in critical areas near tidal waters.

As Lisa Wainger of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science recently wrote in The Sun, Hogan’s choice “is creating confidence among Maryland residents that they [the government] are committed to spending money in appropriate ways to achieve the clean and safe Chesapeake Bay that people want.”

In contrast, Hogan’s decision to have Maryland schools start after Labor Day next year was actually first supported by O’Malley. A 2013 task force commissioned by O’Malley composed of educators, parents, business owners and legislators to examine the impact of a post-Labor Day start to the school year voted overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal while finding no detrimental impact on student-readiness.

A post-Labor Day start to the school year has been as popular as the governor in recent polls, with a 2015 poll from Goucher College showing that 72 percent of Marylanders support a statewide rule requiring schools to start after the Labor Day holiday with only 19 percent opposing the measure. In a nod to the bi-partisan support for the change, Hogan was flanked by Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot and Democratic Maryland State Sen. James Mathias when he made his announcement nearly two weeks ago on the topic.

The great similarity between these two recent actions by Hogan is that they are the right policies for the state. No matter how divided politics may seem in Washington, Hogan is providing us with plenty of proof that good ideas and good governance can transcend party lines and that people on both sides of the aisle can recognize when the government is working as it should.

Sam Wallace is a public policy graduate student. He can be reached at