By Len Lazarick
Anjali Reed Phukan has been the only official candidate for state comptroller for four months now. She filed the same day she became a Republican on April 20, saying she wanted to be an “environmental Republican” like Gov. Larry Hogan.
The 39-year-old Montgomery County native is as unconventional as her name, pronounced ahn-JAH-lee FOO-kahn. She goes by Anjie.
Her credentials as a certified public accountant are conventional enough — she has two master’s degrees in business, information systems, and data mining. She’s currently an auditor with the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, reviewing compliance with state regulations at Ocean Downs casino.
She developed a taste for politics growing up in Montgomery County, working in several Democratic campaigns. “I was interested in being part of the political process.”
She also developed a taste for drugs, which got her “kicked out a number of times from Montgomery County schools. I’m in recovery.”
Not a partisan
She’s not a fan of partisan bickering and was unaffiliated for 10 years before she turned Republican in April. “I can’t do the Democrat and Republican thing, I’m way into math.”
In 2014, she ran as a write-in candidate against Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot and Republican Bill Campbell. Franchot got 63% of the vote to win his third term. Phukan got 595 votes.
“The corporate evil empire is both a Democrat and Republican machine,” she said.
In 2011, she participated in the Occupy Wall Street movement. “I wouldn’t call it far left, I’d call it ‘far angry,'” saying she found many conservatives and Republicans taking part.
Last year, she ran in the nonpartisan race for Montgomery County school board
“A hundred thousand people voted for me and I didn’t put a dime in the campaign,” she got 31% of the vote (actually 107,255) against Shebra Evans in District 4. Phukan said she saw plenty of partisan money flowing into those races.
She is about to roll out a campaign platform. One of her ideas is removing interest and penalties for people who don’t pay taxes, since it discourages them from coming forward as the charges pile up. “The federal amnesty program is way better than Maryland’s.”
For the moment, “I’m holding off on the truth,” about the comptroller’s office.
In her campaign statement, Phukan said, “I see Franchot not as an enemy, but a person to win over into cooperative politics.”
“As such, if I win, I will offer him a consulting position to finish working on his greatest projects.” (Perhaps Franchot’s Reform on Tap commission rewriting beer brewery regs?)
“I will not let partisan selfishness take away from his accomplishments.”
“Even if I am crazy, I’m the best person for the job,” she said. Not your typical campaign statement, for sure.
“Math people are definitely in a weird league of their own.”
I looked up Ms. Phukan after seeing a sign for the the incumbent in a neighbor’s yard. I think many of us have been so focused on Washington politics that we forget that we have elections of for our own backyard coming up as well. This was a great article and gave some very good insight into why she’s running – and so far I like what I hear. As as voter, I see party affiliation is a just a shingle under which to hang one’s hat. Human beings are complicated and people rarely toe the party line on every issue, which is why articles like this are so very important. I like Ms. Phukan’s idea of using the federal amnesty program as a template for reforming Maryland’s. (And it has been my personal experience that when offered amnesty, most people are relieved – whether is overdue library books, fines, or tax penalties. And it’s far better to offer amnesty/course correction than let them compound the problem year after year, which isn’t good for anyone.)
I find it interesting that the author characterizes Ms. Phukan’s name as “unconventional.” Unconventional how? By unconventional do you mean because she is running for public office and the name is not immediately associated with someone of European descent? While her politics might be less than typical for a Republican candidate, there was absolutely no reason for Mr. Lazarick to have made any comments about Ms. Phukan’s name. Maybe if fewer folks we so quick to judge a name, “Anjali” would not be considered so “unconventional” in US politics.
Anjie, as she chooses to go by, offers a pronunciation guide to her name on her Facebook page, which seems a sure indicator that her name is not routine. An Anjali Smith or even an Anjali Lazarick might not do the same, although LAZ-a-rick is often mispronounced. People even sometimes start her last name with an obscenity.
I perhaps I should have led with her closing statements “Even if I am crazy, I’m the best person for the job,” she said. “Math people are definitely in a weird league of their own.”
But then the mental health people might have been on my case.
I think it was a great article. I feel like some parts were cut out, but I know you had to consider space and word count; that it was not intentional to take things out of context. I have a steep learning curve in interviewing. I appreciate your fair exposure.
Ben, thank you for your support. I think it’s being a reporter is a difficult job, especially in non profits like marylandreporter.com, to gain interest of readers. It is sad that my name, purely as a non-European, strikes a fear in some, and maybe we can change that today. 🙂
Accounting and crazy – I’d like to see her reconciliation. Her tax amnesty idea would likely have the opposite effect she advertises. She’s qualified on paper, though.
Thank you for appreciating my qualifications. My tax amnesty plan isn’t a zero interest plan. We are talking about making it more in line with federal amnesty or requiring people to take a class on ethics or taxes to get a reduced penalty (details are not set and won’t be until real policy analysis).