Around 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, much of Annapolis may have heard a clangorous rumble emanating from Jake Weissmann’s rather unimpressive first-floor State House office window.
Weissman’s Boombox likely was on full blast, blaring “I Hate Everything About You,” the hit 2000’s song by Three Days Grace which became the Machine’s anthem, dedicated to disdaining Franchot.
Surely the sound of the music attracted other Machine staffers to join Weissmann in what would have been a cinematic moment only taught in a Scorsese masterclass.
Computer speakers weren’t even quite up to the job for the brief impromptu commiserating session when the Annapolis Machine first learned via an email blast that a Franchot for Governor campaign could soon become more than a speculation session while puffing cigars at a seedy Main Street cigar dive.
A Franchot for Governor campaign could actually become a reality.
Oh, the Humanity!
Meanwhile, just down the street, Comptroller Peter V. R. Franchot’s (D) staff may have been overheard by Annapolis passerbyers strumming their best Fender air guitars while Len Foxwell, Franchot’s chief, led the crew in a riveting rendition of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell,” crying More More More!
Maryland’s worst-kept secret is now officially out of the proverbial bag: Franchot, the 33rd Comptroller of Maryland, is openly telling Marylanders that he’s interested in succeeding Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.
“Many of you have reached out to ask me to run for Governor in 2022… Given our record, and given the challenges and opportunities facing our great state, I am strongly considering running for governor in 2022,” an email blast read that was sent out by Franchot’s campaign and signed at the bottom as just “Peter.”
Timing is everything in election politics. At the ripe age of 71, the robust Franchot of Takoma Park may finally have found the right time to run for the job that he’s coveted for some time.
Franchot mulled a 2014 gubernatorial bid. The timing wasn’t right. And given the comptroller’s tenuous relationship with former Democratic Gov. Martin J. O’Malley, Franchot would have faced a barrage of underground insults and jabs from a Machine nemesis.
(It’s too bad Martin O’Malley never asked Franchot if he could borrow some furniture upon his less-than-graceful exit from Maryland’s Government House.)
Since his historic 2018 re-election victory, capturing the most number of statewide votes – 1.6 million – from Democrats and Republicans who are tired of the do-as-I-say Machine politics, Franchot and his crack team subtly began to drop gubernatorial breadcrumbs, leaving Marylanders to believe that he’s ready to move up to the big seat after 16 years as the state’s chief financial officer.
What would a Franchot gubernatorial campaign look like?
Holding a fundraiser last Thursday in Ocean City during the annual Maryland Association of Counties convention, Franchot offered a sneak peek.
“I have made thousands of visits to small businesses around the state. My famous predecessor Louis Goldstein told me ‘a good comptroller never sits behind his or her desk in Annapolis. Get out, Peter, from the bubble, and go talk to people,” Franchot exclaimed as the crowd of nearly 100 were onlooking from the parking lot of Fish Tails, sipping craft beer and buzzing about the buffet line.
Franchot emphasized that he believes in “good fiscal management, having the political will to accomplish a policy agenda and restoring trust in government.” He said he has heard the concerns of Marylanders from all over: “Fix the potholes, pick up the trash, put air conditioning in the kids’ classrooms, answer the goddamn phone.”
Another obvious theme that is likely to dominate a Franchot 2022 gubernatorial bid: Eschewing Annapolis Machine politics.
Franchot’s political persona is, no doubt, built upon the notion that he’s a political outsider looking in. He might work in Annapolis, but he sure as hell ain’t from there.
Often shunned by his own party elders, Franchot’s political career is defined by his ability to stick the needle in the eye of political insiders, freeing himself from a monolithic power structure that controls elected Democrats to the extent of punishing anyone who goes AWOL from the ranch.
“We’re never going to make any fundamental reforms in Maryland as long as the Annapolis Political Machine makes all the decisions,” Franchot told the crowd to light applause. “They’re just not set up to do it.”
Another cornerstone of a Franchot gubernatorial campaign: Franchot shows up. Everywhere.
“Over 13 years,” Franchot said, he’s learned to show up. “Obviously I’ve done my job, thanks to my staff.”
Franchot ended his nearly five-minute speech summing up his core political axioms:
- Be a fiscal moderate;
- Stop defining success on how much money is spent on something that sounds good;
- Abandon Machine Politics and do what is right for the state and not any particular political party.
“I think the public appreciates and supports the independent Democrat that I am,” Franchot concluded.
Franchot will take the next several months and continue “discussions with friends, supporters, and Marylanders” across the state, and his campaign will continue to raise money. Franchot’s last campaign finance report showed a little over $1 million in a campaign account, a figure that his campaign hopes will fend off other Democratic gubernatorial entrants.
There is no Maryland heir apparent in either party to replace the term-limited Hogan.
But Franchot’s vast statewide presence and his unique ability to assemble a diverse coalition from all political spectrums may be enough to fend off potential challengers in a Democratic primary.
Franchot getting into the race early is another tactical maneuver that could bolster his ability to resist the Democratic Party’s internal power brokers fielding an “anybody but Franchot” candidate. It’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of who the Annapolis Machine anoints.
And who would it be? Nobody knows yet. Then again, nobody can keep a secret in Annapolis (just ask Mary Ann Lisanti).
For now, without any competition, Franchot has the floor.