Monday, August 15, 2011

Breaking: Delegate Kumar Barve is "All In" for Comptroller

Last month, Washington Post writer John Wagner, posted this interview with Delegate Kumar Barve, indicating his interest in the Maryland Comptroller's race:
“If it’s an open position, I’d definitely be interested,” Barve said. “You’re in a position to really work on issues like efficiency in government.”
That article was published on June 17, 2011. It is nearly one month later, so we decided to check in with Delegate Barve on the status of his decision-making. His response: if incumbent Comptroller Peter Franchot vacates his position, Mr. Barve is "all in" for the race.

I'm honestly a little surprised to see the Comptroller's race drawing serious candidates so quickly, but there are a couple of factors at play:
  • Shorter Campaign Season: Due to a change in federal law, Maryland's primary date was recently changed from September to June in election years. This change removes nearly an entire summer from the campaign schedule, and it pushes prime voter contact activities into the legislative session (which typically runs from January to April). Notably, state legislators and the Comptroller are prohibited from raising funds during the legislative session. Perhaps one of our readers can clarify whether a sitting legislator can raise funds for a race other than their current office, during the legislative session?
  • Intra-Montgomery Competition: It is a fairly common perception that there are only a few major political regions in Maryland -- Baltimore City/Suburbs, Montgomery County, Prince George's County, and the rest of the state (note: more on this topic in a future post). In recent weeks, there has been increasing chatter from a number of Montgomery County legislators about their interest in running for Comptroller. Conventional wisdom would indicate it would be difficult to win a statewide office with too many people from your home county in the race. Perhaps Delegate Barve sees a value in getting in early?
  • Redistricting Fallout: Because Maryland has relatively long four-year terms for state office (and is solidly Democratic) opportunities to move up the political ladder can take years to materialize. For that reason, many Annapolis officials look at the internal leadership posts (ie: Speaker, Whip, committee chair, etc) as another way of advancing their careers. But, word on the street is that House Speaker Mike Busch may represent a new single member district when the state redraws its legislative district maps. This is fairly significant. Speaker Busch currently represents District 30, a 3-member district that includes the Annapolis State House area. However, he is currently the only Democrat in his House Delegation -- his two colleagues are both Republicans and one of them bested him in the vote total during last year's general election. This is not a reliably Democratic district, so no wonder the Speaker would seek a single member district. As Maryland Politics Watch's David Lublin pointed out last year, the Maryland GOP has in the past succeeded at decapitating the state's Democratic leadership. To many ambitious politicians, Mike Busch representing a new single member district means a potentially long wait to advance through the House leadership. It is no wonder people are keeping all options on the table.
Frederick Delegate Galen Clagett (Democrat, District 3A) has pondered an entry into the race. He would promise to serve only one term, but we should note that it is unclear how serious his interest in the Comptroller's office is:
...he has a backup plan if the comptroller bid falls through. He would run for county executive if a new form of government, county executive-county council, is adopted next year followed by an election in 2014. Clagett said he also would only serve one term in that position.
In any case, we will report on this race more fully in the future. In the meantime, this may begin a domino effect in Barve's corner of the world. Barve is currently the House Majority Leader and serves on the powerful Ways and Means committee. Who will fill these slots? And what will become of Barve's District 17 House seat? Though the district will obviously have new boundaries in the next election, its delegation has a combination of folks likely retiring before the next race. That will almost certainly trigger an open-seat style dynamic for District 17 Delegates Luiz Simmons and Jim Gilchrest. Hmm.


  1. As to the fundraising angle, here's the prohibition on raising money during the session:
    "Contributions may not be solicited, accepted, or deposited by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, a member of the General Assembly, or a person acting on behalf of any of these individuals, during the Legislative Session, which begins on the second Wednesday in January of each year and continues for 90 days."

    The only exception is if the person raising money is running for federal office or a local municipal or county office. So a Delegate running for Comptroller would still not be able to raise funds for the campaign during Session.

  2. Actually I remember when Delegate Levy was running for Executive in Prince George's, she was barred from raising money while she was in the legislature.