In Comptroller Race, Glassman Says He Wants to Be ‘Traditional Trustee of the People’s Money’

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman (R), shown here at the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference in 2019, is running for comptroller. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Harford County Executive and former state legislator Barry Glassman (R), the lone declared Republican candidate for comptroller, wants to use his lengthy government resume as a selling point to voters in a race he concedes is an “uphill climb.”

Glassman will face tough competition in the general election regardless of who comes out on top in next year’s Democratic primary. The declared Democratic comptroller candidates are Timothy J. Adams, the first Black mayor of Bowie and a wealthy defense contractor, and Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore City), who has scored endorsements from a slew of state and local lawmakers as well as progressive advocacy groups.

Maryland hasn’t had a Republican comptroller since since Phillips Lee Goldsborough, who held the office between 1898 and 1900 — and it’s been decades since the GOP even fielded a viable contender. Glassman acknowledged he faces a tough campaign when he announced his candidacy earlier this year, but said in an interview that he hopes to leverage his decades of government experience to appeal to voters on both sides of the aisle.

Glassman, a 59-year-old sheep farmer and retired BGE claims adjuster, was first elected to the Harford County Council in 1990, where he served until he was elected as a state delegate in 1998. He served as delegate from 1999 to 2008, and as a state senator from 2008 to 2014, before being elected Harford County executive. He is currently term limited, with his tenure set to end in late 2022.

Glassman said in an interview that he thinks of himself as a “traditional moderate candidate.” He said he would be a comptroller in the vein of Louis L. Goldstein (D), who held the office from 1959 to 1998. Goldstein railed against excess spending and government waste during his long tenure as comptroller, and in many ways shaped the way the office operates today. Maryland has had just two elected comptrollers since Goldstein’s death in 1998, with incumbent and gubernatorial candidate Peter V.R. Franchot (D) holding the office since 2007.

Invoking Goldstein’s famous catchphrase, Glassman said he wants to be a “God bless y’all real good” comptroller, focused on safeguarding the state’s finances as opposed to highlighting political issues that he believes shouldn’t be part of the comptroller’s responsibilities.

“Some of the candidates on the campaign trail are talking about issues that really fall under more the legislative and the executive branch, and I kind of want to be the traditional trustee of the people’s money,” Glassman said.

He also said he would be well-equipped to handle the comptroller’s role on the state’s powerful three-member Board of Public Works spending body because he sits on Harford County’s own spending panel, the Board of Estimates. That panel has similar responsibilities to the Board of Public Works when it comes to awarding government contracts and reviewing county government purchases.

“Historically, Marylanders have looked for their comptroller to be experienced and competent and have a balancing temperament between the governor and treasurer,” Glassman said.

Glassman said he’d focus on streamlining comptroller services online if elected in a bid to save the state money. He said he wants to do a “top-down analysis” of online services in the comptroller’s office, and argued that digitizing and streamlining county government services in Harford County saved the government millions during his time there.

Digitizing more comptroller functions and making state spending data more accessible to the public is also something that Lierman and Adams have proposed in their campaigns, but Glassman said he hopes his efforts to centralize and make Harford County government services accessible online during his tenure as county executive will appeal to voters.

“Although technology is expensive, and getting your software and all your programs up to date can be an investment, I found over the long term it provides savings each year,” said Glassman, who wants the comptroller’s office to be as “technologically advanced as businesses and families out in the broader community.”

He also thinks that more online outreach about state contracts and requests for proposals will help make them more accessible to businesses owned by women and people of color.

“I think sometimes what we’re missing is to make sure those bids make their way out into the broader community,” Glassman said. “Sometimes the bids are there, and they’re not pushed out far enough where minority and Black and Brown businesses can really discover them.”

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