Category Archives: mike miller

Peter Franchot Punches Back at Mike Miller

Comptroller Peter Franchot responded on Facebook to yesterday’s post on Senate President Mike Miller’s sharp criticism:

For the vast majority of my Facebook friends who have better things to do than keep up with the State Circle sandbox, and have asked me what all of this is about, here’s what Senator Miller’s latest attack boils down to. First, I’m an independent voice for the taxpayers of Maryland, who gave me this job that I love and who pay for my salary. I work for you – not for Senator Miller or any other Annapolis party boss.

Second, while I’m a lifelong progressive on social issues, I’m also a fiscal watchdog who is happy to work with responsible leaders from both parties to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent more efficiently, and to hold the line on higher taxes and unsustainable debt. For a backroom partisan like Senator Miller, who must destroy the Republicans at all costs in order to recover his grip on patronage appointments, preserve his grip on the redistricting process and such pursuits, my preference for bipartisan government is an act of heresy that is best snuffed out.

I offer this not in a spirit of anger or resentment of Senator Miller, because he is simply doing what Annapolis bosses do. I offer this simply to provide context to those who might otherwise be inclined to take the Senate President and his comments more seriously than they should. That said, enjoy your Friday and a relaxing weekend!

I’m sure Republicans are enjoying gleefully this intraparty feud. Comptroller Franchot has certainly given back as good as he got yesterday from Senate President Mike Miller. At the same time, it’s hard to imagine this statement will help improve relations with General Assembly Democrats, who wish that Franchot would carry water for them instead of the Governor more often.

A Note on Political Maneuvering

Yesterday, one had to chuckle when when Mike Miller said “I’m not going to name his name.” Though technically true, it self-evident that he was speaking of Peter Franchot. Peter Franchot’s statements that he does not harbor “a spirit of anger or resentment” after a blunt, return attack towards Miller in the name of providing “context” inspire as great an eye roll.

But let’s hold off on labeling either of these people as insincere–or at least more so than the rest of us. The media routinely places politicians in an impossible position. Would anyone be shocked if Peter Franchot felt “anger or resentment” after Mike Miller’s comments? Except Franchot would be criticized as petty if he did not disclaim being so. Yet denying this normal human response looks disingenuous, especially after his scathing critique of Miller.

And people wonder why politicians sometimes look like a pretzel married a robot.

Miller Touts Raskin, Disses Franchot in One Stroke on Opening Day

The Maryland Senate is just not a safe space for Peter Franchot.

On the opening day of session, many luminaries come before the General Assembly to say hello and give brief remarks. When Senate President Mike Miller introduced Brian Frosh, I’m told he said enthusiastically something along the lines of “Welcome to the Attorney General. He served in this body for many years.” followed by very welcoming applause from his former colleagues.

As Franchot rose to speak, Miller introduced him offhandedly as the “tax collector” to very scattered, tepid applause. However, the chamber gave a resounding round of applause when Miller next reminded the body that Franchot used to represent Sen. Jamie Raskin and touted Raskin as someone who was going to do a terrific job as the next congressman from the Eighth District.

Miller also compared Franchot to Trump in a television interview, so I guess it’s safe to say that they’re no longer BFFs. More dangerous for Franchot is the broader estrangement from the Democratic Party that the moment revealed.

Mike Miller Compares Peter Franchot to Trump

Bruce DePuyt of News Channel 8 got quite a first day of session interview from Senate President Mike Miller. After giving a lucid analysis of the sources of the Trump phenomenon and its danger, Miller aimed his fire closer to home:

He [Trump] is like one of our state officials. I’m not going to name his name. He’s a fraud. He was a moderate Democrat who is now transforming himself saying I’m a right-wing tea party conservative to get the vote. That’s nonsense. You’ve got to be true to yourself. He’s not true to himself as are other politicians that we know.

It’s an open secret that the state official who shall not be named is Comptroller Peter Franchot. Miller has been feuding publicly with the Comptroller, attacking him in a scathing public letter. Miller has been critical of Franchot for grandstanding and his now routine support of Gov. Hogan on the Board of Public Works.

Franchot’s evolution has been amazing. When he primaried sitting Comptroller William Donald Schaefer in 2006, he positioned himself as the progressive standard bearer. The Washington Post reported:

Franchot ran an aggressive campaign, trying to link both Schaefer and Owens to Ehrlich and claiming that he was “the only real Democrat in the race.”

So in essence, Miller’s argument is that Franchot has become exactly the portrait he drew of his opponent in 2006. Indeed, Franchot’s reply to Miller’s letter was highly complimentary of the Governor while critical of General Assembly Democrats.

Mike Miller is a centrist Democrat, so one can only imagine how liberals in the General Assembly view Franchot’s actions. I’d say Franchot is headed for uncharted waters except that, based on his own 2006 primary campaign, Franchot should know exactly where the course he is charting heads.

The Senate President Pans the State of the State

On Governor Hogan and his speech:

I was disappointed. I like him personally. I know his father, I know his family. Maybe he’ll grow into the job. I hope he will. I hope he’ll understand what’s doable and he’ll tell the truth to the people that this is what we can achieve working together. But the responsible thing is to say Governor we can’t do these things until we can afford them. And so it’s going to take adults to tell him that.

On the Governor’s proposal to eliminate the rain tax:

OK, fine. Let’s eliminate the rain tax. Who pays for it? It’s a federal mandate. So guess what. The counties are going to have to pay for it by themselves. The counties are supported by the taxpayers.

On the Governor’s proposal to eliminate personal property taxes:

He says he wants to eliminate the personal property tax. Guess what. That goes to the counties, not the State. One of my counties has got five Republican county commissioners. They’re going to resist that. They need that $3 million in personal property tax to pay for education. Again, it’s campaign promises brought into his State of the State speech—campaign promises that he knows can’t be kept by either himself or the General Assembly until prosperity comes.

Is Maryland in as bad a shape as the Governor describe?

Maryland is in great shape. We have the highest income of any state in the Union. We have the lowest poverty of any state in the Union. We have either the 1, 2, or 3 best schools of any state in the Union. He’s described the State like Arkansas or Alabama or Mississippi. I don’t know what state he’s talking about. This is a great state. We’re very proud of our state. We need just to move forward. We need a governor that wants to work with the General Assembly to move us forward, not backwards.

Brochin Leads, Lots of Intrigue in D42

D42New

The New Boundaries of Districts 42A and 42B

Redistricting altered substantially the boundaries of Baltimore County’s District 42. While the new district extends from the Baltimore City boundaries to Pennsylvania and is divided into two subdistricts for delegate elections, the old district (shown below) was a much smaller section of territory concentrated close to the City with no subdistricts. D42Old

The Old Boundaries of District 42

The new boundaries seemingly take in many new Republican voters, adding red territory in the northern part of the County and losing Democratic Pikesville precincts. The new District 42 is split in two with District 42B (two delegates) a GOP bastion and District 42A (one delegate) safe for the Democrats. The map below helps capture the partisan complexion of the area with bluer areas more Democratic and red areas more Republican (from Dave’s Redistricting). Dist42Partisanship

Partisan Complexion of northern Baltimore County

The new plan has been widely cast as an attempt to remove Sen. Jim Brochin from Senate by Governor O’Malley and Senate President Mike Miller. Certainly, there is no love lost by either on Brochin. Though Brochin has supported the Governor on some issues, he  vocal opposed him on others. Gov. O’Malley repaid the favor by endorsing his primary opponent, former Del. Connie DeJuliis. Maryland Reporter quotes an unusually restrained Mike Miller as playing it cool:

Miller said Brochin has not asked him for help in the race. “It’s very rare that I get involved in a Democratic primary,” said Miller, who has used a Senate PAC to funnel money to help Democratic incumbents get reelected.

“I wish them both well in the primary,” he said.

Miller is famously blunt when he wants to be–reporters surely bless him daily. But Miller’s lack of support for Brochin is unusual for Miller. He is fiercely protective of his caucus and normally backs them to the hilt in primary as well as general elections. The absence of Miller’s support speaks volumes. Brochin casts himself as the most independent and bipartisan member of the Senate. Some might assume that the new lines are punishment for failure to toe the liberal line. Certainly, the unions have joined O’Malley in lining up behind DeJuliis.

Politics is a team sport and Brochin’s independence can cost him friends. His support for marriage equality thrilled Equality Maryland but his vote against trans equality in the last session had the opposite effect. Picking a side can build allies. But lots of members of the legislature stray while remaining in the good graces of colleagues.

Members of the Democratic leadership are often quite understanding of legislators who cannot support them on a tough vote. Del. David Rudolph is extremely well-liked yet one of the most conservative Democrats in the House. Brochin’s problems lie not so much in his conservatism as his unpredictability. He likes to keep people guessing and changes sides frequently–characteristics that frustrate colleagues who value knowing where you stand, at least privately, with some regularity.

While the intent to hurt Brochin seems clear, and Brochin hated the new district lines enough to sue unsuccessfully over them, it is a bit murkier to me. As much as O’Malley and Miller might be happy to toast Brochin’s departure, neither wants to lose a Democratic seat.

The evidence that the new district is drastically less safer for Democrats is pretty thin on the ground. The old district elected two Republican delegates, though Brochin managed a comfortable if not overwhelming 58% in 2010.

In the Senate race for the new district, the Democrats are also looking good. The one Republican in the race has $7K in his campaign account–Bob Ehrlich’s endorsement hasn’t exactly raked in the cash. Looks like a far more exciting battle for the Democratic nomination between Brochin and DeJuliis.

In the fundraising battle, Brochin has $229K in the bank compared to just $42K for DeJuliis. But she can raise money during the session while Brochin cannot. On the other hand, various interests might not want to cross him during the session.

Money is not everything and DeJuliis could well be on her way to having enough funds to be competitive. Her union backing could give her a wealth of volunteers. However, DeJuliis won her sole delegate election in 1990, so this is not the same as the classic delegate-senator matchups elsewhere.

DeJuliis narrowly last the primary for the 2nd Congressional District with 35% in 1994. She received the nomination in 1996 but got badly beat by Bob Ehrlich. All of which is ancient electoral history at this point. Brochin looks well positioned to win both the primary and the general. Still, even if Brochin wins, O’Malley and Miller sure have made him sweat.

On the House side, Del. Stephen Lafferty can breather easier in cozily Democratic 42A with $86K in his campaign account. Del. Susan Aumann ($63K available) looks ready to coast to reelection in Republican 42B with others battling it out for the second GOP nomination. So far, only one Democrat has even bothered to file in the two seat subdistrict.