More Notes from MACo

Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) at his Ocean City fundraiser Thursday. Photo by Josh Kurtz

Burying the hatchet? For the past few years, state Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) and House Economic Matters Chairman Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s) have been at war over liquor policy and regulation in the state.

And at times, it’s gotten personal. Davis, after all, helped push through the legislation this year that strips the comptroller’s office of the power to regulate alcohol and tobacco products.

So it was more than a little surprising to see Davis turn up at Franchot’s waterside fundraiser in Ocean City Thursday, as Franchot railed – as he so often does – against “the Annapolis machine,” which, in his estimation, surely includes Davis.

What prompted Davis to put in an appearance?

“I don’t believe in holding grudges,” he said. “The people expect us to behave like grownups.”

Franchot’s reaction? He suggested that his ongoing criticism of “the machine” is about “the [lack of] political will for fundamental reform” in Annapolis, and less about beefs with individual lawmakers.

“Dereck and I get along fine,” he said.

Both Davis and Franchot pointed out that they are former colleagues, having served for a dozen years together in the House before Franchot was elected comptroller in 2006.

And Franchot could get a taste of revenge when it comes to liquor and tobacco regulation. The legislation that is taking effect – over the veto of Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), Franchot’s close ally – requires the governor to appoint a commission to take on the comptroller’s former regulatory duties.

The legislation mandates that the transition take place by next July 1, and it would surprise no one to see Hogan appoint one of Franchot’s top aides to the commission. Davis said he is OK with that.

“That wouldn’t surprise me,” he said. “Ultimately, as long as they’re doing the job, that’s all we care about.”

As for Franchot?

“I would suggest, for those who are interested in political entertainment, that they stay tuned,” he said.

Salling confirms congressional bid. State Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-Baltimore County) confirmed Thursday that he plans to challenge eight-term Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) in 2020. Salling put out a tweet to that effect earlier in the week but provided no further details.

“I just feel like it’s the right time,” he said in an interview during a reception sponsored by Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings (R-Harford and Baltimore counties) in Ocean City Thursday night. “Right now the Republican Party has an opportunity to gain a seat.”

Salling, an Army veteran and former steelworker, is a vocal admirer of President Trump. He was elected to the Senate to represent the Dundalk area in 2014, upsetting John A. “Johnny O” Olszewski Jr. (D), who was then a state delegate and is now Baltimore County executive.

Salling believes he can pull an upset again. But that may be difficult. While there are conservative, pro-Trump pockets in the 2nd congressional district, which takes in significant chunks of waterfront in Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties, as well as slivers of Baltimore City and Howard County, Ruppersberger has never gotten less than 61 percent of the vote since his first House race in 2002.

Salling said he called Ruppersberger Thursday to inform him of his decision. “I’m not going to say anything bad about him [during the campaign], and I’m a man of my word,” he said.

Through June 30, Ruppersberger had more than $980,000 in his campaign account. Salling said he figures he needs to raise at least $250,000 to be competitive.

Salling does not need to give up his legislative seat to run for Congress in a presidential election year.

Post time. For most of the four-day Maryland Association of Counties summer conference, the Roland Powell Convention Center serves as Ground Zero for all the daytime activities.

But around midday on Friday, that will change. Maryland Matters has learned that several lawmakers will be taken to lunch at Ocean Downs casino and racetrack on the outskirts of town. At the very same time, the Maryland Racing Commission, which meets at various locations throughout the year, will have its monthly meeting at the race track.

While Ocean Downs is approaching the tail end of its summer racing calendar, the trotters will not be racing on Friday, according to the track’s schedule.

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Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.

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