Spouses of political candidates are scrutinized for all sorts of reasons including their looks, haircuts, fashion sense, character - all deemed symbolic components of how that person will represent the constituency for which s/he is NOT running. Their significant other is. But a recent episode in Maryland is a reminder that a spouse can be, and often is, a co-wielder of political power.
Faced with what can only be described as antagonism from the federal government and an erratic president from his own political party, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) turned to creative problem-solving using the talents of his spouse - his wife Yumi.
Yumi Hogan, First Lady of Maryland
According to Hogan, a month ago he asked his wife to join him on a call with Lee Soo Hyuck, the Republic of Korea’s ambassador to the U.S. The Hogans had recently attended an event at the ambassador’s home and at that event, the President of South Korea video-conferenced in and singled out Ms. Hogan as the first Asian-Pacific First Lady of any U.S. state. Ms. Hogan, the First Lady of Maryland, was born in South Korea and Korean is her first language.
From there, the first couple of Maryland made a personal appeal to Korea to purchase tests directly. After 22 days of negotiating, a chartered Korean Air Flight arrived at BWI secretly, or as secretly as can be when a large airline from a country and company that has no landing privileges at a large international airport can be. It was the first time a Korean Air passenger plane has landed at BWI. The governor deployed a contingent of Maryland National Guard and State Police to safeguard the arrival.
Governor Hogan announces the arrival of 500,000 COVID-19 test kits from South Korea. His spouse, Yumi Hogan socially distanced, with mask, stands by.
According to the official Maryland web site, she is an artist and an adjunct professor at Maryland Institute College of Art. She has a history of leadership in organizing and advocating for Asian-Pacific American communities, art therapy, and raising awareness for those battling cancer. This last interest was spurred by her husband’s battle with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. In 2016, she was jury chair for the artwork chosen to decorate Terminal D at the Baltimore Washington International airport. If nothing else, this means she had had dealings with BWI administration in the past. And, of course, her husband the Governor has his own political juice when it comes to transportation services within his state.
As of this writing, Maryland has reported over 26,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus with over 1,500 deaths. Annapolis, the state capitol, is 35 miles from the White House. The chief resident of the White House has continually pushed back to individual states the responsibility for addressing the global pandemic while at the same time taking credit for ‘doing a great job’. Hogan disagrees with his party’s leader and, as strong leaders do, has looked for practical solutions to Maryland’s pandemic response.
The biggest issue is testing. A.K.A., the first step in solving any problem is admitting there is one. In the virus world that means testing and more testing.
Maryland National Guard assisting in delivery and securing 500,000 test kits from South Korea.
The tests were then secured to protect them from federal confiscation in an undisclosed location.
This is family, a married couple, as a functioning political unit with a big win for those they take responsibility for, their constituents. Yumi Hogan’s title and office is automatically granted to the spouse of the elected governor. This does not mean that because she did not run for governor herself she does not participate in governance.