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Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, left, stands behind Gov. Larry Hogan as he speaks earlier this year. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Hogan’s illness raises lieutenant governor’s profile

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford has been an integral player in Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration, but until now the 58-year-old Columbia resident has hardly been a household name in Maryland.

That all changed Monday afternoon.

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Hogan announced he’s been diagnosed with B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of cancer the governor called “aggressive” and said had “spread rapidly.” He said he will continue to serve in the position he was elected to last November, but that he will be depending on Rutherford and his cabinet to help him govern while he fights the disease.

In his news conference announcing the diagnosis, Hogan referred to Rutherford as a “good friend and a wise and steady partner in government.”

Under the state constitution the lieutenant governor can take over for the governor temporarily if he is notified in writing that the governor is unable to perform his duties. It also allows for the lieutenant governor to take over if the governor becomes disabled or unable to communicate his inability to perform his duties.

The lieutenant governor serves as acting governor until he is notified the governor can resume his duties.

His roles under Hogan

While Rutherford’s public profile will undoubtedly rise in light of Hogan’s diagnosis, he has served as more than just a figurehead in the short time Hogan has been in office. Despite the lieutenant governor’s position being largely ceremonial — the state constitution doesn’t assign the office any specific powers or responsibilities — Hogan previously said he and Rutherford “co-govern.”

Rutherford has filled in for the governor at important functions, such as Board of Public Works meetings, and has been appointed to lead high-profile initiatives, such as the state’s task force on heroin addiction and reforms to state government procurement policies.

“The role has changed ever since I became governor and we keep piling more and more work on him,” Hogan said. “I think he’s got more responsibility now than any lieutenant governor in history. Boyd has my back there’s no question about it. He’s the most capable guy to ever serve as lieutenant governor.”

Rutherford, like Hogan, has never held elected office before this year. However, he’s not without experience in government.

Previous positions

Rutherford previously served as the Secretary of the Maryland Department of General Services in former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich’s administration, and served as assistant secretary for administration for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in former President George W. Bush’s administration.

His official biography touts his efforts to give small business greater access to government procurement contracts as well as bringing greater efficiency to those agencies.

Rutherford holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Howard University, as well as a law degree and a master’s degree in communications management from the University of Southern California.

During the campaign, Rutherford portrayed himself as a man who is not burning with desire to be governor. “After eight years as lieutenant governor, I want to ride off into the sunset,” Rutherford told The Sun during the campaign. “The way I’m thinking now, I’m not interested.”

Hogan Monday was adamant that he will not be relinquishing his duties and will continue to work as full a schedule as his health allows.

“I won’t stop working to change Maryland for the better. I’ll be working hard and making the decisions the people of this state elected me to make,” Hogan said.


About Adam Bednar

Adam Bednar covers real estate and development for The Daily Record.