Del. Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore City) had the stage to herself Tuesday at Goucher College, at what was supposed to be a forum for the two candidates for state comptroller.
Her opponent, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman (R), couldn’t attend due to a family medical emergency.
Lierman said that if elected, she would make it easier for Marylanders to file state tax returns, modernize the comptroller’s office and improve customer service, because the office should function as a “taxpayer advocate.”
The Maryland State Bar Association co-hosted the forum and Lierman told the audience that she’s “the only nominee for comptroller who’s an MSBA member.”
The comptroller is the state’s tax collector and sits on various boards such as the powerful Board of Public Works. That board — comprised of the governor, state treasurer and comptroller — approves state government contracts.
“I look forward to pulling people together regularly to understand what’s working and what’s not so that we can make Maryland the best state to live in,” said Lierman, a civil rights and disability rights attorney. “This is the beginning of the conversation and not the end.”
A Goucher College poll released last month showed 48% of those surveyed will vote for Lierman and 35% for Glassman. However, 16% of poll respondents were undecided.
Glassman is clearly hoping that a recent endorsement from The Washington Post changes the campaign dynamic. The newspaper’s editorial board described Glassman as “a traditional Republican” in the mold of Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and said the county executive would provide balance in Maryland, where Democrats dominate the legislature and are likely to win back the governor’s mansion in November.
“One-party rule in any state is a recipe for immoderation and poor governance,”
In an email to supporters this week, Glassman said the paper recognized his candidacy over Lierman, whom he described as “a liberal who is too liberal even for a newspaper of record.”
In a statement provided to Maryland Matters, he expounded on the idea.
“I continue to be recognized…as an experienced, non-partisan leader and the only candidate who has a chance to win and bring balance to Annapolis,” he said. “Just like Governor Hogan, I will be a moderate, common-sense check on one-party government, and I will never use the Comptroller’s office for overtly political or ideological purposes.”
If he wins, Glassman would become the first Republican elected comptroller since 1900.
But Lierman supporters are pushing back against the Post’s assertion that Glassman “rejects the GOP’s MAGA wing and would take a restrained approach to the office…” They point to several votes Glassman took during his 16 years in the General Assembly that suggest he isn’t as moderate as he would like voters to believe.
Between January 2008 to December 2014, he opposed measures to expand Medicaid, legalize gay marriage and increase the state’s minimum wage.
He co-sponsored a bill that would’ve required the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to establish a mandatory abortion survey system and report abortions to the agency. That bill was voted down in the Senate Finance Committee.
Glassman voted against the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, a bill that became law months after the Newtown school massacre. Glassman was one of seven Republicans in the state Senate who voted against a bill in 2013 that enabled the Maryland Stadium Authority to build new schools in Baltimore City. And he voted against the bill that authorized offshore wind energy off the coast of Ocean City.
As Glassman touts his moderation and his support from Hogan, Lierman is relying more on the man she hopes to succeed, Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), who has held the job since January 2007 but unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for governor in the July primary.
Franchot narrated a TV ad that Lierman began airing last week, quoting from newspaper articles that call her “diligent,” “detail-oriented” and “a hard worker who pays close attention to the details.” He also describes her in the ad as “the only comptroller candidate committed to protecting abortion rights.”
“We’re so excited to have Comptroller Peter Franchot on Team Brooke!” the campaign said in a fundraising solicitation that went out Wednesday. “If anyone in the state knows what it takes to be Comptroller, it’s Peter Franchot. And he knows that with Brooke as our next Comptroller, Maryland will be in extremely capable hands. He supports Brooke because he has seen her work around the state and knows she will bring bold leadership and excellent service to all Marylanders.”
Lierman and Glassman did not especially spar on ideological matters when they met during an online candidate forum earlier this month.
In the Oct. 6 forum, they answered nearly a dozen questions that included whether they agreed with the General Assembly’s decision in 2018 to strip the Board of Public Works of oversight on school construction.
During that discussion, Glassman said the state should work with counties on innovative ways to help expedite school construction projects.
Lierman, who would become the first woman to be comptroller, said she supports the current set-up. She did bring up Glassman’s vote against the Baltimore City school construction legislation.
Early voting in the general election begins Oct. 27 and continues through Nov. 3.
Voters can fill out mail-in ballots and drop them off at various locations, or drop them in a mailbox, where they must be postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 8.