By PAMELA WOOD
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said Wednesday that he’s “seriously considering” a run for governor in 2022.
“I haven’t made my mind up completely,” Franchot said in an interview. The Democrat, who is often at odds with members of his own party, said he intends to make a decision on a gubernatorial bid in 2020.
Franchot, 71, is positioning himself as a political outsider, even though he has spent more than 30 years in politics in Annapolis. He said when he meets voters around the state, they appreciate his independent streak.
“People view me, like them, as an outsider to traditional partisan politics. That’s clear,” Franchot said. “Nobody likes the Annapolis political machine, which famously I don’t get along with well.”
The current governor, Republican Larry Hogan, will be ending his second term in 2022 and unable to run for re-election due to term limits — creating an open race to replace him.
In a fundraising email Wednesday, Franchot encouraged supporters to donate to his campaign to help him fight against the “Annapolis Machine.” The email advertises a “disruptor package” for $40 that includes a magnet and two T-shirts, one with the slogan “Disrupt The Machine. Franchot" in lettering across the front.
Franchot’s email said party leaders will work to support their “anointed candidate,” although the party doesn’t appear to have a front-runner in the race. Several names have been tossed around as potential Democratic candidates — including Franchot’s — but with the election three years off, no one has announced a gubernatorial candidacy.
Franchot is the first potential candidate from either party to publicly express an interest in the race.
Franchot, who lives in Takoma Park in Montgomery County, was a member of the House of Delegates from 1987 until 2007, when he first was elected comptroller.
“I’ve been in Annapolis, but I am not of Annapolis,” Franchot said, emphasizing the “of" as he spoke.
The comptroller is the state’s chief tax collector and serves on the powerful Board of Public Works, which approves state contracts. He has aligned with Hogan on some Board of Public Works decisions.
Franchot said his track record as comptroller shows he could bring good fiscal sense to running the state.
As comptroller, Franchot has selected issues to weigh in on, including pushing to start public school classes after Labor Day and chastising the Baltimore city and Baltimore County school systems for the pace at which they have installed air conditioning in schools. He also has the advantage of being able to travel across the state to issue proclamations to businesses and champion his office’s programs, such as tax-free back-to-school shopping or electronic income tax return filing.
Franchot also has frequently clashed with members of his party. Last year, he refused to endorse the Democratic nominee for governor, Ben Jealous, and said he wouldn’t vote for anyone in the race. Franchot has a particularly fraught relationship with powerful state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. Last year, Franchot ran a television ad that portrayed Miller, a fellow Democrat, as a “machine boss” who had lawmakers marching to his commands.
Lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly this year passed legislation stripping the comptroller’s office of its authority to regulate alcohol and tobacco sales — a move that Franchot claimed was retribution for his advocacy for craft breweries. Hogan vetoed the bill, but the General Assembly swiftly overrode the veto.
The comptroller has a robust campaign and fundraising operation. On his last campaign finance report in January, Franchot reported having a little more than $1 million in his campaign account.
Franchot frequently points to his status as the top vote-getter in statewide elections as proof of his popularity, though he hasn’t faced a well-funded challenger in any of his re-election bids. In last year’s victory, Franchot received 1.6 million votes. Franchot’s last competitive election was the Democratic primary for comptroller in 2006, when he toppled the incumbent, the legendary William Donald Schaefer, and defeated Janet S. Owens, who was Anne Arundel County executive at the time.
Franchot said he will spend the next several months weighing whether he wants to give up his “semi-normal life” for the higher-profile life of a gubernatorial candidate.