With Peter Franchot (D) set to step down after four terms as Maryland’s comptroller, voters will select someone new for the post in a little more than two weeks’ time.
During a radio debate on WAMU’s “Politics Hour” Friday, the candidates vying to take his place sketched out very different visions of how they would approach the job.
Del. Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore City) said she would bring an expansive, values-driven outlook to the Goldstein Treasury Building — and she accused her opponent, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman (R), of being out of step with the electorate.
“My opponents thinks that climate change, gun violence, workers’ rights, education, transportation and economic fairness are outside the purview of the state comptroller’s office,” Lierman charged. “But I think those values are central to the comptroller’s mission…”
Glassman called those issues “very important,” but he said he would adopt a narrower, more fiscally-oriented approach.
“The state constitution sets that office up as a non-partisan CFO,” he said. “A bookkeeper — more than a bookkeeper — a tax collector, revenue-estimator, all those fiscal duties.” He said the policy planks Lierman laid out are more the realm of the governor and legislature.
“The comptroller is not intended to be a partisan position,” Glassman added.
In addition to being the state’s tax collector, the comptroller also has key roles involving revenue and pensions. The comptroller serves on the contract-approving Board of Public Works, alongside the governor and treasurer.
Lierman said Glassman was choosing to construe the office’s functions narrowly because “his views are so outside the mainstream of Maryland.” Although Republicans gubernatorial hopeful Dan Cox and attorney general candidate Michael Peroutka are expected to struggle on Nov. 8, some Democrats fear that Glassman could slip through. (He recently described himself as more “normal” than his ticket mates.)
Both candidates expressed support for the ballot question that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana, but they differed on Gov. Larry Hogan’s toll lanes plan in Montgomery County. Glassman supports it, Lierman opposes it.
Lierman voiced support for the state’s embattled digital ad tax, which just suffered a defeat in court. Glassman, a former state legislator, noted that lawmakers received warnings that the tax on downloads could be illegal, but they plowed forward anyway. He used the discussion about the tax to renew his push for “some balance against one party control in Annapolis.”
Comes a horseman
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman (D), who is locked in a tight battle for a second term with County Councilmember Jessica Haire (R), is launching a 30-second TV ad with several equine guest stars and one very notable human.
Pittman’s ad opens on his horse farm, with him addressing the camera.
“You know,” he begins, “my job as county executive and my old job as horse farmer have some things in common.”
The image then goes to a split screen, with Pittman in a suit taking meetings on one side and Pittman doing farm chores on the other. “Both demand a lot of hard work, a lot of listening and knowing horses*** when you see it,” he says, the curse word effectively bleeped out by a horse whinny.
Then, a picture of Haire is reflected on the side of a barn. “We see a lot of that during elections,” Pittman says, as words flash across the screen that say, “Haire’s ads paid for by dump developers.”
Pittman goes on to list some of his accomplishments in office, and he points out that he’s been endorsed by the police and teachers’ unions, Planned Parenthood, The Baltimore Sun, “and our next governor, Wes Moore.”
Moore himself then appears on the screen, leading a horse.
“Steuart Pittman has delivered for Anne Arundel County, and together we’ll deliver for Maryland,” Moore says.
Pittman was the first county executive to back Moore in the Democratic primary for governor, and Moore just headlined a fundraiser for Pittman earlier this week. The ad is going up on digital channels this weekend and should be on TV at the beginning of next week.
Speaking of Moore, group of more than 200 military and national security leaders and professionals has endorsed his bid for governor.
The bipartisan group, known as National Security Leaders for America, or NSL4A, says it is getting behind candidates across the country “who promote democratic values and have opponents who specifically do not.”
In a letter Friday “to the great people of Maryland,” the group praises Moore’s military service and sense of patriotism, and calls out his opponent, Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick), for his fealty to President Trump, for busing constituents to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, and for repeating “QAnon conspiracy theories.”
“Wes Moore is prepared to stand up against all that imperils our democracy,” the leaders said in their letter. “He will stand up to those who use violence to achieve political ends. He will stand up to people who lie about elections to protest outcomes they do not like. He will stand up to those who prefer the rule of authoritarians. He will stand up to those who circumvent the law to install their preferred candidates against the will of the people. He will stand up to those who think their power lets them trample regular people’s inalienable rights.”
The letter’s signatories range from retired Navy Admiral Steve Abbot to retired Brigadier General Peter Zwack. Some of the better-known people on the list include Alexander Vindman, the former director of the National Security Council; Richard Clarke, another former NRC official; Janet Napolitano, the former Arizona governor and former Homeland Security secretary; and Ray Mabus, the former Navy secretary and former governor of Mississippi.
Speaking of endorsements, Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington), who is challenging U.S. Rep. David Trone (D) in the 6th District, picked up the endorsement Friday of the Tea Party Express, the nation’s largest grass-roots Tea Party political action committee.
Sal Russo, the co-founder and chief strategist of Tea Party Express, said Trone “recently demonstrated his liberal politics by inviting President Joe Biden to campaign for him in the district. You would think that would convince plenty of Marylanders to run the other way. The last thing people in Maryland need is a congressman who thinks Biden is doing a good job and wants to continue voting for his failed policies.
“Neil has pledged to lower taxes and reduce the size of government so American families can best decide how to spend their own money without being forced to hand it over to politicians in D.C. And instead of giving the government more power and control, Neil wants to restore power back to the American people so they can live their lives without big government bureaucrats breathing down their necks.”