Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said Monday that his bipartisan appeal and history of working across the political aisle make him well-positioned to become Maryland’s first Republican comptroller since 1900.
Glassman thus far has no primary opponents. The Democrats running for comptroller are Del. Brooke Lierman (Baltimore City) and Bowie Mayor Tim Adams. The candidates are vying to succeed popular incumbent Peter Franchot who has served as comptroller since 2007 and is running for governor.
Below is an edited excerpt of an interview Glassman did with MarylandReporter.com. Glassman discussed his campaign to be elected the state’s chief tax collector, his political leanings, and vaccination rates in Harford County.
Maryland has not had a Republican comptroller in more than 120 years. What makes your candidacy unique and what makes you think you have a good chance of winning a statewide race in such a deep-blue state?
Glassman: I think the reaction that we have gotten from folks around the state and this could be due to Governor Hogan’s election-but I have had Democrats, Independents and Republicans reach out to me. And I think for the position of comptroller they are essentially looking for somebody that has the experience and has been trusted in local government. So I think I am just the right fit at the right time.
Some of it is just a gut feeling. But we have had a really positive reaction so far from around the state. And over the years I have been able to work with folks from all of the various parties. And the support that we are getting seems to be very broad.
You are generally considered to be a moderate Republican. Do you agree with that characterization and if so do you believe that that will help your chances of being elected?
Glassman: I am fairly moderate in my demeanor and in the way I have governed over the years in Harford County. But I do have a strong conservative fiscal background. We are one of the only big eight counties that has not raised taxes and that has paid down our debt and remained to have a AAA bond rating. I think the fundamentals of the financial side of my leadership is fairly conservative.
I am probably more moderate in that I am not known as a right-wing bomb-thrower or someone that is constantly working on the different partisan divides. We have done some surveying and most taxpayers want a comptroller that is sort of in the middle and is a steady hand. And I think we kind of fit the bill for that.
How do you view the relationship between the state and the taxpayer?
Glassman: It is a customer service type of job. The comptroller collects over $16 billion per year so you have got to collect those and do your refunds. But you pay the state’s bills and have a very important role on both the Board of Revenue Estimates (BOE) and the Board of Public Works (BPW). So a lot of those things I have already done here in local government and during my time on the Senate Finance Committee learning about the state budget.
I operate a billion-dollar-a-year county. So I know what customer service can do. And what we have done here is use digital platforms. By doing that you can make government smaller and faster and provide better service. I think that there are ways that we can make improvements in state government using digital platforms to produce better service.
Many pundits had speculated that you might run for governor. What made you decide to instead run for comptroller?
Glassman: I had been thinking about this for about a year. We probably started raising money at a higher amount during the last year or so. But I think it just came down to when I met with my family and looked at where I am in my life. And I thought: ‘comptroller just seems to be a better fit for me.’
I am more comfortable talking about budgets, revenue estimates, and those types of policy things, as opposed to getting into all the various different issues out there at the gubernatorial level. It (comptroller) just feels like the right race for me. And some of this might just be a gut feeling. There is no science behind it. You just kind of get that feeling about what you feel most comfortable running for.
Should you be elected comptroller, what are some of your policy goals?
Glassman: The first is what I have learned over the years from Comptrollers Louis Goldstein to William Donald Schaefer to Peter Franchot-which is that the comptroller’s division has a very professional and well-tested staff. I would come in and try to not kind of screw up things at the beginning by changing things that are working like a well-oiled machine right now.
I think long-term I would look at ways in which we can improve service using technology. The other is just to be a steady hand on revenue projections and when we look at the amount of bonds that we are issuing for debt. That kind of experience is going to be really essential as we come out of this pandemic.
A recent analysis by Maryland Matters found that coronavirus vaccination rates in Harford County rank somewhere near the middle when compared with vaccination rates in the other 23 jurisdictions of the state. Do you sense any vaccine hesitancy among your constituents?
Glassman: [On April 22] we opened the Ripken drive-through mass vaccination site. And so I think those numbers are going to pick up a little bit from that. But when I look at our numbers we are very close to the state average-40-some percent with the first dose and about 33% with the second dose. So right now we are within the state average.
So I cannot really extrapolate from that that we have a hesitancy. The numbers do not exhibit that right now. I think that will become more apparent if there is some hesitancy as we get further into May and early June where most areas of the state will be sort of recruiting people to get the vaccine.