One day after Maryland politicos battled the sweltering summer heat and infringing humidity at Somers Cover over crabs, clams and Smith Island mini-cakes, the perfect retreat to continue the political chatter from Wednesday was a gathering on Thursday evening at Jimmy’s Famous Seafood in Dundalk.
It was famed Maryland lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano’s day on Wednesday. On Thursday evening in Baltimore, however, it was Comptroller Peter V. R. Franchot’s proverbial time in the sun – but with air conditioning and crab cakes to accompany the crowd of nearly 100 who showed up to support and encourage Franchot to take the next step in his career in public service.
“We’re definitely taking a look at the next step,” Franchot said during his brief remarks before the gathered coalition of progressives, moderate Democrats, conservative Republicans and independents, pointing to a 2022 gubernatorial bid.
Franchot’s fourth term expires in January 2023, of which he will have served 16 years as the state’s comptroller.
“We have a lot of challenges in Maryland. I think I really got a nice line of attack on those issues of fiscal challenges, economic challenges, infrastructure challenges; and I think the key is to have government in the right junior, constructive position to the private sector,” Franchot said.
The Maryland seafood-themed fundraiser was organized by real estate developer Wayne R. Gioioso Sr., a longtime Franchot supporter.
Gioioso told A Miner Detail that nearly $50,000 was raised for Franchot on Thursday.
Touching on fiscal issues – a topic of discussion amid the crowd that included longtime Franchot supporters, lobbyists Gerald Evans and Bruce Bereano and many political outsiders who feel left behind by the Annapolis political Machine – Franchot oscillated his remarks between the co-existing roles of the private sector and the rightful duties of a limited government.
“The private sector can create the jobs and the wages we need. The government side needs to understand its role – which is, yes, we need to regulate, yes, we need to oversee – but for God sakes, legislators, like I used to be, should not be making the decisions that the private sector has the experience to make.”
Franchot mused with the crowd that, as of now, Maryland Democrats (and perhaps, even Republicans) are lacking an heir apparent to succeed the popular second-term Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, with whom Franchot has an excellent relationship.
Some Maryland Democratic county executives have been touted by political insiders as potential 2022 gubernatorial candidates – namely Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks, who is serving her first term.
But many Maryland Democrats are still reeling in embarrassment after Ben Jealous’ 2018 gubernatorial general-election campaign went down in flames.
Franchot did not endorse Jealous’ depleted campaign, whose gubernatorial try-and-see was starved for resources and tacked far to the left, much too far outside of Franchot’s political comfort zone.
But for Franchot, viability is his core strength.
“I’ve got a million dollars in the bank. I’m going to put another million in by the end of this year,” he said.
Despite some pushback from partisan Democrats and the Annapolis Machine, Franchot still earned the most number of statewide votes in the last election, a point he is not shy to share or boast about to listening audiences.
A May Gonzales poll showed promising news for Franchot: 65% of voters overall approve of the job Franchot is doing as Maryland’s comptroller, that is, 70% of Democrats, 56% Republicans and 62% of independents.
The late William Donald Schaefer is on Franchot’s mind lately.
“I am channeling that guy right now – because whatever flaws he might have had at the end, he was a genius. I’m doing the little things that people said make our lives better. He fixed the potholes. He picked up the trash. He would have had these school classrooms air-conditioned years ago,” Franchot remarked.
“And I love that concept: Why don’t we start showing people that government can do the little things, and it will rebuild some trust and confidence that, in fact, the state is in some good hands.”
Russ Mirable, 71, of Rosedale, Maryland who donned a Franchot for Governor name badge under his suit jacket told A Miner Detail that he’s been a longtime Franchot fan and hopes the comptroller takes the gubernatorial plunge.
“I’ve known and supported Peter for 10-15 years and I like him a lot. He’s straightforward; he’s different. He’s not a politician.”
“I happen to believe that the citizens of Maryland deserve a government that works and responds,” Franchot said.