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Franchot says he's a true Democrat running for Md. comptroller

November 17, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN

andrews@herald-mail.com

Painting his better-known opponent as a masquerading Republican, a Maryland delegate explained Wednesday why he's running in next year's Democratic primary for state comptroller.

Toppling William Donald Schaefer seems lofty, Del. Peter V.R. Franchot said during a small gathering at the Four Points Sheraton on Dual Highway.

But, "last I looked on the computer, if you want to eliminate an icon, you just push a button," Franchot said, drawing laughs.

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Franchot, a Takoma Park, Md., resident who has been a state delegate since 1987, had already announced Saturday that he is running for comptroller.

On Wednesday, he ate lunch with about 15 people from local Democratic politics and labor unions.

Schaefer was at the same hotel Monday for a fundraiser for his own re-election campaign. The primary will be Sept. 12, 2006.

Franchot hasn't filed to run yet. First, he's spreading his message: Schaefer, who has endorsed Republicans in key races, is a false Democrat.

A significant reason for unseating Schaefer, Franchot said, is the comptroller's power as a member of the state Board of Public Works.

The board approves most state contracts of more than $200,000, as well as general obligation bond funds and many capital improvements, according to its Web site.

Franchot called the three-member board "as powerful (as) or more powerful than the state legislature."

One member, State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, is "a good Democrat," but a second member, Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, is "a captive of the right wing," he said.

"The swing vote is William Schaefer," Franchot said.

"Oh, my God," gasped Edythe Rickard of Halfway, a Washington County Democratic Central Committee member in the audience.

Franchot - the chairman of a House appropriations subcommittee on transportation and the environment - bashed Schaefer, a former governor, for his Republican leanings, especially toward Ehrlich.

He offered little evidence, though, that Schaefer was a bad comptroller rather than a bad Democrat.

But, in a separate interview, Franchot cited specific complaints of Schaefer, including some of his votes on the Board of Public Works.

He said the comptroller's office, lacking trained economic forecasters, underestimated revenues by about 10 percent last year, well outside the acceptable range of 1 or 2 percent.

At his own fundraiser Monday, Schaefer talked about ending the last fiscal year with a $1 billion surplus and shrugged off Franchot's chronic allegations about his party loyalty.

"Oh, I don't pay attention to that," he said. "I've been around for a long time. After it's all over, you've got to work for what's good for the state. Not what's good for politics."

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