ANNAPOLIS – While the three Democratic contenders in Tuesday’s comptroller primary slung epithets, accused each other of dirty politics and pushed for a focus on social issues, Republican candidate Anne M. McCarthy claimed little of the media spotlight but more than 43 percent of her party’s vote.
But now that she has joined a statewide GOP ticket that includes incumbent Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, U.S. Senate candidate Michael S. Steele and attorney general candidate Scott L. Rolle, the former business school dean expects the media to take much greater notice of her campaign, which focuses on the root responsibilities of the comptroller’s office.
“William Donald Schaefer was an icon. It makes sense for them to pay attention to that,” she said. “Will they ignore this one? I don’t think so.”
McCarthy, 48, left her post as dean of the Merrick School of Business at the University of Baltimore to enter the race, her first stab at public office after a career in business and academia. She ran a low-key primary campaign against three fellow Republicans with a fund raising total that hadn’t even cracked $6,000 by August.
But even in a state where 55 percent of voters are Democrats and only 29 percent are Republicans, she remains confident that her business-oriented background will click with voters as a perfect fit for the state’s tax collector.
McCarthy said that after nearly five decades under Maryland political mainstays Louis L. Goldstein and William Donald Schaefer, the public has largely forgotten the responsibilities of the comptroller.
“People haven’t really paid attention to how important that position is and what a comptroller does,” she said. “The whole word is kind of off-putting. ‘Comptroller.’ What’s a comptroller?”
McCarthy said she seeks a return to the core duties of the office, which she likened to the head of a household charged with balancing the checkbook and “making sure we live within our means.” She aims to re-focus the comptroller’s role as state tax collector, contracting and procurement officer and head of the state pension fund.
“I do not believe that the comptroller should be a shadow governor,” she said. “If the candidate wants to talk about social issues, he should run for governor or the state assembly.”
Meanwhile, her opponent, Democratic candidate Peter V. Franchot, emphasized health care, education and development as key issues during his primary campaign and said the comptroller’s seat on the Board of Public Works was one of the “major reasons” that he entered the race.
But Audra Miller, a Maryland Republican Party spokeswoman, echoed McCarthy’s assertion that political and social issues are outside the purview of the comptroller and should not form the basis of any campaign for the office.
“[McCarthy] clearly understands the job of what a comptroller has to do, where the Democratic candidate clearly does not,” she said. “Peter Franchot is known as a partisan bomb-thrower. That really has no place in the comptroller’s office.”
Additionally, Miller said with McCarthy on board, the Republican ticket represents a level of diversity – in gender, race and geography – that is lacking on the Democratic side.
“The Republican ticket is the true big-tent diversified ticket,” she said, while the Democratic ticket “resembles the choices of the Democratic party’s power brokers, not the voters.”
Political analyst Frank A. DeFilippo said diversity would count less in a year when issues have moved to the forefront of voters’ minds. “The Democrats have the issues and the voter momentum going with them this time,” he said. “What does [McCarthy] bring to a statewide ticket?”
Last month McCarthy revealed campaign funds totaling barely more than $5,000. But it proved enough to win in a primary race where the Republican contenders received comparatively little media attention.
“I conducted a classic grass-roots campaign. It would be kind of nice to see that money doesn’t always mean who wins,” she said.
McCarthy, who moved to Baltimore from Colorado four years ago, said she anticipates a much more visible campaign for the general election, including lawn signs packaging her name with the other three statewide Republican candidates. But she wasn’t certain where she’d be concentrating her efforts and how far her new wave of fund raising would take her. “It’s day two,” she said Thursday. “I’m just learning from the primary and figuring out a strategy to move forward.”