For the first time in 20 years, Maryland’s incumbent state comptroller will not be on the ballot next year. The race to succeed chief tax collector Peter Franchot as he runs for governor has already attracted a trio of serious candidates who have hit the campaign trail.
First out of the starting gate in January was two-term Democratic Del. Brooke Lierman of Baltimore with $588.000 in her campaign fund and a progressive platform of economic development and equity to transform the office. With scores of endorsements from Democratic lawmakers present and past, including House Speaker Adrienne Jones and U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, she is already the establishment pick for the job.
Joining the Democratic race in February was Tim Adams, a long-time tech entrepreneur who became the first Black elected mayor of Bowie in 2019. He had $253,000 in his campaign coffers in January.
While Lierman would be the first woman in the office and Adams would be the first black, Barry Glassman, the term-limited Harford County executive, wants to be the first Republican to hold the office in over 100 years.
“We’re going to break that,” Glassman said at a recent campaign event in Carroll County. “I’m the best qualified Republican candidate we’ve put forward for comptroller in my lifetime. I’m going to be the first Republican comptroller in over 100 years.”
Glassman, 59. is the most traditional candidate with the most traditional resume and most traditional style campaign. He started the year with $441,000 in his campaign checkbook. His first goal is to shore up the GOP base and run up the score in Republican counties.
“It feels like home,” he told a crowd of about 50, mostly white men at Piney Branch Golf Club in late June. He recalled hauling loads of sheep from his Harford County farm along back roads in Carroll County “many a time.”
“We need to make sure we run up big numbers in counties like Carroll and Harford counties,” Glassman said.
Carroll is pretty conservative? I asked County Commissioner Dick Weaver, a soybean and livestock farmer. “I hope so,” Weaver replied. “Sometimes I get a liberal idea in my head, but it goes away pretty quickly.”
Glassman had looked at runs for governor and U.S. Senate but decided “being Maryland’s next comptroller is the right position for me.”
Glassman served on the Harford County Council, in the House of Delegates and state Senate before being elected as county executive.
“I really did a real job,” with a 25-year career at BGE, emphasizing he’s not just a career politician. “I know what it’s like to earn a living too.”
“In the legislature, I worked with folks on both sides of the aisle,” said Glassman.
“I’m not a really partisan firebrand. You’re not going to see me throwing bombs in one way or the other.
As county executive, “we even reduced the tax rate; paid off more debt than we took on,” said Glassman, emphasizing his credentials as a fiscal conservative.
“We need to have a strong independent voice as comptroller,” especially on the important Board of Public Works, with power over much government spending.
“I think it’s going to be crucial as we come out of this pandemic that the Board of Public Works is not turned into a progressive platform for change,” said Glassman.
“The comptroller is the voice of all Maryland taxpayers. When it comes down to it, we’re all taxpayers.”
Glassman hopes to be a “watchdog that we’re not spending too much, we’re not taxing too much.”
Lierman, 42, already had established herself as one of the more visible progressive leaders in the House of Delegates when she launched a full-blown campaign for comptroller in January. If Glassman is running to be your father’s version of comptroller, Lierman is out to become your liberal daughter’s version of the office, with an emphasis on equity.
While representing her south Baltimore district in the legislature, she has conducted dozens of virtual meet-and-greets throughout the state, bolstered with a robust presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and a website. A civil rights lawyer and the mother of two young children, Lierman said she “will modernize the comptroller’s office and provide citizens with more transparent and accountable processes to understand how state funds are collected, spent and invested.”
She promises to promote initiatives to “close the racial wealth gap and increase upward mobility” while using the comptroller’s field offices as hubs for resources to partner “with nonprofits to help working families and entrepreneurs thrive.”
The comptroller serves as vice-chair of the state pension board overseeing $62 billion in investments. Lierman says she will ensure the funds are invested by managers who “reflect the state’s diversity and our spending reflects Maryland’s progressive values.”
Lierman also says she will ensure small and family-owned businesses can access the tools and capital they need to innovate and grow. She will push for investment in workforce and public infrastructure, including education, transit, and broadband, to ensure a capable workforce can access jobs across the state.
Lierman said she will ensure the comptroller’s policies “address long-standing, systemic disinvestment in communities of color to equalize access to opportunity and success.”
“I know first-hand that she knows the state’s financial process and how to make the state’s money work for Marylanders,” Speaker Jones said in a June 28 statement. “She was one of a handful of legislators I counted on to debate the tough issues in the legislature because she’s tenacious, smart, and knows how to get the job done.”
Tim Adams, 62, spent most of his career as a high-tech entrepreneur. He is the founding president and CEO of Systems Applications & Technologies, Inc. (SA-TECH) in Upper Marlboro providing specialized services to the national security sector. It is one of the nation’s top 100 Black-owned businesses, according to Black Enterprise magazine. A native of New Orleans who was paralyzed in an accident, Adams said he succeeded in business through the opportunities provided by a quality education.
“I am running to help provide every child in Maryland with the same opportunities for success and security that I’ve enjoyed,” said Adams. “To do so, we must ensure that our tax dollars are invested wisely, everyone pays their fair share, and our business climate allows our small businesses and entrepreneurs to compete on a level playing field.”
Adams promised to use the power of his office to help change a business and economic climate he characterizes as “adrift.”
“For all of our talk about so-called ‘government transparency,’ Maryland’s procurement system is still weighted in favor of incumbent vendors and those with the best political connections,” Adams said. “This works out perfectly well for a handful of Annapolis insiders, but not for the taxpayers or for those emerging entrepreneurs who can offer better services at lower costs.”
His campaign website is https://timadams.org/