Monday, August 15, 2011

Only 1,034 Days Until the Maryland Comptroller's Race

The usually frumpy ambiance around the Office of the Maryland Comptroller seems to be getting a re-boot, as numerous lawmakers express interest in the race -- only 1,034 days in advance of the Democratic Primary.

In an earlier post, we explained a few reasons why this race might be generating such interest. Here, we discuss a few other figures from around Maryland who are rumored to be weighing a run for Comptroller.

But first, a brief civics lesson (for my own benefit!). According to the State's website, the Comptroller of Maryland is: of four statewide elected officials in Maryland. Unique among state financial officers, Maryland’s Comptroller has diverse and far-reaching responsibilities that touch the lives of every Marylander.

The Comptroller of Maryland is the:
  •     chief financial officer for Maryland
  •     collector of revenue for state programs
  •     provider of information technology services for most state agencies
  •     regulator of the state’s alcohol, tobacco and motor fuel industries
  •     member of many state boards and commissions
The Comptroller, along with the Governor and Treasurer, is one of three members of the powerful Board of Public Works (BPW). A lot of money moves through the BPW, as the body:

  • Approves the expenditure of all general obligation bond funds
  • Approves the expenditure of funds for capital improvements except for State roads, bridges, and highways
  • Approves the sale, lease, or transfer of State real and personal property
  • Controls procurement policy, adopts procurement regulations, and approves most contracts exceeding $200,000
  • Approves allocation of funds paid to each county for school construction and adopts rules for the administration of the Public School Construction Program
  • Preserves and protects the State's submerged lands, shoreline, and tidal wetlands and issues licenses to dredge or fill wetlands
  • Debars and suspends contractors from entering into contracts with the State when the contractor has been convicted or whose participation will otherwise adversely affect the integrity of the procurement process  
In spite of all these powers, my cynical side tells me the operative fact here is the first one we mentioned -- simply that the Comptroller is "one of four statewide elected officials in Maryland." The others are Governor (which has a fairly stable field of candidates already), Lieutenant Governor (who is not really selected by the voters), and the Attorney General. Notably, the Comptroller's office does not require candidates to have practiced law in Maryland for 10 years, as the courts have ruled is necessary for our Attorney General. 

That means if you are an elected official (without a law degree) who wants to hold statewide or federal office, you can:
  1. twiddle your thumbs as you await the retirement of Senators Mikulski and Cardin
  2. launch a bid for Governor in an increasingly crowded field
  3. hope to be selected for Lieutenant Governor
  4. run for Comptroller (note: if abandon bid, refer back to point 3)
  5. wait another eight years (or more) for the next set of incumbents to serve out their terms
  6. wait even longer for one of Maryland's coveted Congressional seats to emerge on the open market
That set of circumstances may be leading the following Democratic candidates to take a look at the 2014 race for Comptroller:

Delegate Kumar Barve - Mr. Barve is the House Majority leader and represents District 17 in Montgomery County. Delegate Barve, 52-years-old, is the chief financial officer of an environmental company in Rockville, Maryland. He has indicated directly that he is all in if Peter Franchot vacates the office. He was first elected to the Maryland House in 1990.

Delegate Galen Clagett - Mr. Clagett represents District 3A in Frederick County. With his announced retirement as a Delegate, he has indicated to the Gazette that he is exploring a run for Comptroller, but he would also consider a newly created Frederick County Executive's post. Claggett, 69-years-old, is a real estate businessman and formerly served as a County Commissioner. He was first elected to the Maryland House in 2002. 

Delegate Brian FeldmanMr. Feldman, aged 50, represents District 15 in Montgomery County. A private practice attorney, Delegate Feldman previously expressed his interest in the Comptroller's race to the Washington Post. He currently serves as the Montgomery County Delegation Chair and was first elected to the Maryland House in 2002. When asked by Maryland Juice to elaborate on his interest in the race, Mr. Feldman responded:
The most important duty of the State Comptroller in my view relates to his role as the state's chief tax enforcement/collection officer.  My extensive experience as a Tax Attorney, particularly the 13 years I served in the U.S. Department of Justice, Tax Division, enforcing our nation's tax laws are ideal for the position.  If there's an open seat, I would seriously consider running for Comptroller.
Delegate Jon Cardin - Mr. Cardin represents Baltimore County in District 11. In a little-noticed article on the Essex Patch Delegate Cardin indicated he too was weighing a run for Comptroller. At 41-years-old Jon Cardin is an attorney and was first elected in 2002. His uncle also happens to be U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. One Democratic official, who was unaware of Mr. Cardin's interest, emailed me an invitation to an upcoming Cardin fundraiser, and noted: "suddenly the number of big names there makes sense." The host committee, for example, includes Peter Angelos, owner of the Baltimore Orioles. See below:

Absolute Hearsay:

A number of people are telling me Maryland Senator Jim Rosapepe (Prince George's County Democrat and former ambassador to Romania) is also weighing a bid for Comptroller and has engaged in recent meetings with supporters. However, other than a mention in this article, I can't find any public evidence to support the rumor. Also falling in this unverified but circulating rumor category is Delegate Heather Mizeur (who would be the third Montgomery County candidate, but the only woman in the race).

Did I miss any key candidates? If so, please reply in the comments or email me at

Please note: The primary for this race is still 1,034 days away. Is all this commotion coming too soon? 

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