ANNAPOLIS- Delegate Peter Franchot, a Montgomery County Democrat, is expected to announce Saturday that he will challenge the reign of one of Maryland’s best known politicians and run against William Donald Schaefer for state comptroller.
“I have great respect for the comptroller and have supported him in the past but it’s time for new leadership, an active leadership,” Franchot said. “I’ve referred to the comptroller as the Babe Ruth of Maryland politics, but even the great Babe Ruth retired.”
The 84-year-old Schaefer, who served two terms as governor of Maryland and four terms as mayor of Baltimore, has indicated he will seek a third term as comptroller though he has not officially announced. If he does, he will face Franchot in the Democratic primary next year.
Franchot, 57, said Schaefer’s alliance with Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and the GOP agenda is a signal that it’s time for a change.
“The comptroller has allied himself closely to Ehrlich and the Republican agenda of budget cuts,” he said. “We’re allowing a Republican agenda of cuts for important social programs rather than Democratic progressive ideas.”
Franchot, an attorney and former staff director for Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., has served on the Appropriations committee since he became a member of the House of Delegates in 1987. He is also chairman of the Transportation and the Environment subcommittee.
Franchot said his experiences in the House have primed him for the position of comptroller.
“I have 20 years experience in Appropriations working in the trenches on fiscal issues,” he said.
Keith Haller, president of Potomac, Inc., said Schaefer’s long-time involvement in Maryland politics will make it difficult for Franchot to gain votes.
“Schaefer is a political institution in Maryland. He’s enjoyed strong popularity in Baltimore market, which makes him difficult to beat,” he said. “He’s as popular with Republicans as Democrats so he will have a stronger standing in a general election than in a Democratic primary.”
But while Schaefer enjoys a strong support base in Baltimore, Haller said he is “vulnerable” in the Washington, D.C., suburbs where the voting base is more liberal.
Delegate Curtis S. Anderson, a Democrat from Baltimore City, said Franchot’s announcement is “exciting because it’s basically out of the norm.”
“In most cases you wait for people to retire or move up slowly and cautiously,” he said. “This is a bold move by Franchot because he is risking a long-held seat in the House and is stepping up to the plate.”
Michael D. Golden, Schaefer’s spokesman, dismissed the idea that the comptroller is too close to the governor, citing Schaefer’s declared support of Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, and disagreements he has had at the Board of Public Works meetings with the governor including voting “against the governor a number of times.” Franchot will make his announcement Saturday in Silver Spring at 1 p.m. and then at Fells Point at 3:30 p.m.