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Comptroller's race offers clear choice

September 30, 2006|by Dee Mayberry

Many in Washington County were not too upset by the Democratic primary defeat of incumbent Comptroller William Donald Schaefer. He was thought to have had something of a grudge against Western Maryland in his days as governor.

However, to be fair, Schaefer did follow the style set by the Democrat who held the job for decades, the late Mr. Maryland, Louis Goldstein. It is hard to find people who actually disliked the affable Louie, with his handout gold coins and his signature slogan.

Republicans threw some very good candidates against that comptroller but failed to unseat him. In fact, Marylanders even stopped thinking much about that office.

They believed the state was just rocking along in good hands when it came to managing money and citizens seemed to vote for Louie almost automatically. There were races when his campaign hardly bothered to put out signs at election time.

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Louie was known to bristle if anyone called him a politician. He would look such a person straight in the eye and announce, "I am a public servant, not a politician."

It was true. Louis Goldstein stuck to his job. He was known nationally as the man who could negotiate interest rates for necessary Maryland borrowing to keep the cost as low as possible, thereby avoiding increases in taxes to cover debt.

Like the well-handled family credit card, Maryland did not spook sophisticated New York rate setters in those years.

Louie put 100 percent of his energies into this kind of comptroller work and, like him or not, William Donald Schaefer was cut from the same cloth and came out of the same school of thought. Maryland remained content. Whatever the politicians in the legislature might do, the Goldstein stamp remained.

Now, all of a sudden, a different breed of cat has emerged out of legislative politics. Now, the comptroller job is worth more attention than ever before.

Promising to upend the common-sense management style the state has taken for granted, a true politician will appear on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.

A lobbyist from Takoma Park - one tiny, super-liberal corner of Montgomery County - won the Democrat Comptroller primary. Also a delegate to the General Assembly, this individual is a politician and little else.

His name is Peter Franchot and he won his race with a screwball message such as has never been heard in a Maryland Comptroller contest. Mr. Maryland must be turning over in his grave.

Instead of concentrating on management and money matters, this man talks about social issues. He will do this or that about abortions, teacher problems and anything else that is absolutely unrelated to keeping a solid hand on business, management, and finance work. He makes promises a comptroller can't keep. Lacking relevant experience, it appears he may not know what he can and can't do in the job.

Where Louie bristled, Franchot brags. This super-left tiny tot, disliked even by many members of his own party, no doubt won because of a bruising Democrat battle between Schaefer and Janet Owens from Anne Arundel County. When two strong people go head to head, almost any third person can slide in.

Opposing Franchot is one of the best credentialed women around. Until she left to run for comptroller, she was dean of the School of Business at the University of Baltimore. She not only knows how to manage money, she has been the engine that launched careers of managers, finance experts, and business entrepreneurs.

Her name is Anne McCarthy. It will stand against Franchot on the November ballot. So far, little is known about her in Washington County - she won her primary here by a slim margin in a GOP contested race.

She won big on the Eastern Shore, and even took Baltimore and Harford counties. She lost Montgomery County to a favorite son, but took 38 percent of the vote even there.

McCarthy didn't spend big dollars. She simply blew others away with her firm, quiet dedication to real work of an informed comptroller. She leaves the social issues where they belong - with the politicians. Washington County needs to hear more about this woman, who shares this county's views about financial conservatism.

Anne McCarthy will not bankrupt the State; Peter Franchot could do just that. Those who remember Louis Goldstein must be devastated by the thought.

Among us are those who recall a fine old gentleman whose cheerful words for Democrats and Republicans alike were "God bless y'all real good". The choice this time around looks like a real no-brainer for voters.

Dee Mayberry is a Boonsboro resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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