Gov. Wes Moore will be in Allegany County for the next two days, marking his fifth trip to Western Maryland since taking office and the continuation of a travel schedule his office has portrayed as an aggressive one.
A former governor, those who’ve worked for governors and academics who closely follow state politics agree that it’s smart for Moore to be on the move.
It’s especially important for a new governor to convey that he’s “one of the people” and not hiding out in Annapolis, said former Gov. Parris Glendening, a fellow Democrat.
“He is expected to be out among the people,” Glendening said. “After a year or so, that trust and confidence builds up, and it’s not as crucial.”
Moore was scheduled Friday to host a Cabinet meeting at the Rocky Gap Casino Resort and then attend a nighttime Allegany County Chamber of Commerce Crab Feast at a picnic area in nearby Cumberland.
He was also expected to spend Saturday in Western Maryland, though details about his schedule weren’t available midday Friday, according to the governor’s office.
“The travel across the state takes him to where the work is and gives him a first-hand view of what the administration is accomplishing throughout Maryland,” Moore spokesman Carter Elliott IV said in a statement.
Glendening said that regularly being on the road can be a challenge, but there’s plenty of work Moore can still get done.
“It’s not lost time,” said Glendening, who was governor from 1995 to 2003. “I’m in envy of how much communication has improved.”
Advances in technology allow for Moore to work on the road and remain in touch with members of his administration from anywhere in the state.
Glendening said he was speaking at a meeting in Baltimore when a plane struck one of the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001. It was the only time a state trooper told him they had to leave an event.
Glendening said he was unable to reach his office. Using a trooper’s radio, he had to contact police headquarters to get information about the crisis.
More than two decades later, though, it’s less likely Moore would be cut off from his own office in that way if a crisis occurred while he wasn’t in Annapolis.
Mike Ricci, who was the director of communications for former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, said it’s vital for the governor to get out of Annapolis, regardless of whether the legislature is in session.
“It sounds cliché, but showing up is 90% of the job,” he said.
He said Hogan’s travels centered on Cabinet meetings in various parts of the state during his early years in office, which prior administrations had done and which Moore has continued.
“I assume he’s trying to set a tone and show his Cabinet how important it is to get out and see the state,” Ricci said of Moore.
While Hogan’s priority of getting to different parts of the state didn’t change, his approach did.
Ricci said the administration adopted an “immersive model,” in which Hogan would “really get out and about” during his trips, visiting people, touring businesses, stopping at restaurants and attending events.
Todd Eberly, a professor of political science and public policy at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said “there isn’t really a downside to a governor traversing their state,” especially a relatively small one like Maryland.
Eberly said that, while no Democrat running for governor will win Western Maryland, it’s important for Moore to avoid opening himself up to criticism that he’s ignoring a certain region.
“A Democrat can afford to be blown out of the water in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore and still win,” Eberly said. “You don’t want voters to think the governor has written their part of the state off.”
Joseph Bryce, who worked as the chief legislative officer for both Glendening and former Gov. Martin O’Malley, echoed this.
“You’re the governor of the entire state, and the entire state should expect your time and attention and ear. And going to them is an effective and respectful way of doing that,” he said.
Roger Hartley, dean of the College of Public Affairs at the University of Baltimore, said the only potential downside to Moore’s travel schedule would be the appearance that he’s traveling too much and “doesn’t have his hand on the administrative wheel.” That hasn’t been an issue for Moore thus far.
If the frequent trips continue, Hartley said, they’ll be something Moore can point to in a reelection run or a bid for higher office and “trumpet” as a record of working with rural and Republican areas.
“He might be setting himself up on a four-year schedule to visit different parts of the state at different times,” Hartley said. “I see it as a smart governor trying to learn about his state and the needs of the state … and symbolically showing he leads the whole state.”