Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot has suggested that he is the most popular politician in the state. Nobody should dispute that, even though many of his fellow Democrats in the General Assembly can’t stand him because he gets in their way.
After the 2018 election, he said, “You may roll your eyes at this, but as the state tax collector I received more votes for state office than any Marylander in history” — 300,000 more than Gov. Larry Hogan.
OK, how popular, then, is Hogan? In a state where Republican politicians almost qualify for inclusion on the Endangered Species List, he is only the second GOP governor the state ever re-elected (Theodore McKeldin being the first in 1954) and may run for president some day.
Franchot is old school when it comes to campaigning and exercising the benefits of his incumbency to win favor with potential voters. He does this by actually leaving his office and going out to meet them.
In that, he reminds us of one of his predecessors in the comptroller’s office, the legendary Louis L. Goldstein, who died in 1998. He was planning to run for his 11th term at age 85 and undoubtedly would have won.
Goldstein probably spent more time in Western Maryland than anyone else from state government in Annapolis ever has, and he made many friends here. Franchot and Hogan also pay attention more attention to us than anyone else does, which is why we like them, too.
Many of our newspaper staff members and other people in Cumberland and the rest of Maryland received one of the coins Goldstein liked to give out.
The obverse (front) said, “Louis L. Goldstein State Comptroller Maryland.” The reverse (back) said “God bless you all real good.” Right under that was embossed “Auth: Betty L. Weems, Treas.”
Today, it might say “I’m Louis L. Goldstein, and I approved this coin.” It’s also likely that someone would object to the word “God” appearing on a coin that a state official distributes.
Franchot handed out embossed medallions of his own that bore the authority line of his campaign committee. That angered his Republican opponent in the last election — Anjali Reed Phukan, who said Franchot was using his office for political gain.
Franchot said the coins were given to recognize Marylanders for their service to their communities and the state and was paying for them out of his own pocket. He beat Phukan by nearly 1 million votes.
He travels around the state, sometimes just to visit and see how he can help the people, or to use his office to promote such things as Maryland Tax-Free Week, when people can by certain back-to-school items without paying the state sales tax. It is coming up Aug. 11-17 this year.
Lately, he has been visiting taprooms in what Len Lazarick of Maryland Reporter says is his not-yet-official campaign for governor.
Franchot is an advocate of the state’s craft brewing industry and provided free beer and pizza recently for more than 100 guests at the Hysteria craft brewery in Columbia. It won a contest Franchot held for what Lazarick described as “the favorite Maryland brewery to hang out.”
(Our “favorite Maryland brewery to hang out” was the Old German Brewery and its hospitality room, located not far from the Times-News building.)
Franchot has hosted four happy hours at Maryland breweries and has three more, plus a crab feast, scheduled this month.
As we said, this is an old-school approach, but just how old? George Washington became a practitioner of it long before he was elected president.
The first time he ran for the Virginia House of Burgesses (the state legislature) in 1755, he took the moral high ground and refused to ply the electorate with booze. His opponent took the moral low ground and plied the citizens with enough popskull to win the election, 271 votes to 41.
The next time, Washington bought 28 gallons of rum, 50 gallons of rum punch, 34 gallons of wine, 46 gallons of beer and two gallons of cider royal (but no pizza) and threw his own shindig — what might have been called a “political party” at a time when political parties as we know them didn’t exist.
He spent 50 pounds sterling (Virginia was still a British colony) and thought it wasn’t enough — but it was. Out of the 391 people who drank Washington’s hooch, 331 voted for him, and he won in a landslide.
Maryland is called The Free State because it never passed a state enforcement act supporting the Prohibition Amendment, although in 1811 it did become the first state to ban candidates from buying alcohol for potential voters.
Franchot can buy the folks all the free beer and pizza he wants because he is not a candidate for office ... not yet, anyway.
An old-school politician, he makes friends and wins votes by getting out to meet the people he represents and letting him know he cares about them.