Category Archives: Peter Franchot

A Mug Half Full

By Adam Pagnucco.

A General Assembly compromise passed on Sine Die will allow Diageo’s new brewery in Baltimore County to move forward.  But the amended Bill 1283 is a mug half full, with the state’s craft brewers inevitably seeking more in the future.

A brief refresher.  Diageo, owner of the world-famous Guinness brand, announced plans to open its first U.S. brewery in more than sixty years in Baltimore County a few months ago.  Diageo did not ask for a state subsidy, but it did ask for permission to sell 5,000 barrels per year from the brewery’s taproom, up from the state’s current 500 barrel limit (by far the lowest in the country).  A bill passed by the House of Delegates raised the barrel limit to 2,000 (with another 1,000 allowed if bought from a wholesaler), but it also cut back hours of operations and prohibited off-site contract brewing, a major hit on the industry.  After an outcry from brewers, the Senate amended the bill to allow a limited amount of contract brewing and to grandfather the hours of existing breweries and those in the approval process (including Diageo).  The House passed the amended bill on Sine Die.

The deal allows Diageo to come to Maryland, and that’s a good thing.  But it also contains two counter-productive elements.

The Concession to Wholesalers

Brewery taprooms are now allowed to sell 2,000 barrels directly to customers each year.  (The next-lowest state, North Carolina, allows 25,000 barrels.)  Breweries can sell another 1,000 barrels, but to do so, they have to go  through a wholesaler.  That means loading the beer on a wholesaler’s truck, sending the truck to a warehouse where the beer is offloaded, then bringing it back to the brewery to unload it again.  FOLKS, YOU CANNOT MAKE THIS UP.  The graphic below from the Comptroller’s Office illustrates how absurd this is.

Grandfathering of Hours

Existing breweries and those holding on-site consumpion permits and licenses as of April 1, 2017 are allowed to stay open as late as their local jurisdictions permit them, usually between midnight and 2 AM.  All new breweries must close by 10 PM, slamming the door shut on further growth.

The State of Maryland is effectively telling the craft beer industry the following: We don’t like you.  We will tolerate those of you who are already here, but we don’t want any more of you.

Contrast this with Virginia.  The Commonwealth’s Governor, Terry McAuliffe, is a joyous deal-maker, back-slapper and salesman who loves bringing employers to his state – especially craft breweries.  McAuliffe promotes the industry every chance he gets, including the creation of Stone Brewing’s special beer in honor of Virginia, Give Me Stout or Give Me Death.  His term has seen almost 100 new breweries open in the state.  Perhaps his greatest achievement was a successful four-year campaign to entice Oregon’s Deschutes to open near Roanoke.

Virginia’s Beer Drinker in Chief.  Photo credit: Richmond’s Style Weekly.

Here is McAuliffe bragging about Virginia’s booming beer industry to Hampton Roads’ WAVY TV just last week.

Governor Terry McAuliffe spoke to the National Craft Breweries Association in Washington D.C. Tuesday evening to give his best sales pitch to attract new beer businesses to Virginia.

“We got Stone to move here, and we got Deschutes to move here, we’ve got Ballast Point to move here, Green Flash, I mean, no one has had the success we’ve had the last two years recruiting major known craft breweries,” McAuliffe told 8News Reporter Jonathan Costen, pointing out that the booming beer industry has brought hundreds of jobs to the area. “We have 190-craft breweries in Virginia today. It’s a billion dollar industry for us, so I believe it really helps our tourism.

“Folks come, they love to come to our craft breweries, but in addition to that, these craft breweries are all buying locally produced products, it is great for our farmers. We can’t produce enough hops here, so I tell people go out and start a hop farm here in Virginia,” McAuliffe added.

McAuliffe’s message is the polar opposite of Maryland’s.

One elected official who understands the economic and cultural potential of craft beer is Comptroller Peter Franchot, who aggressively defended the industry during the debate over Bill 1283.  The Comptroller is now convening a task force to study the state’s beer laws from top to bottom with the goal of producing model legislation next year.  An interesting question is whether Governor Larry Hogan will come on board.  The Governor has allied with Franchot on more than one of his ideas in the past, including school air conditioning and starting school after Labor Day.  Craft brewing is a natural issue for Hogan, given its potential for job creation and the Democrats’ near-fumbling of the issue this year.

Just two guys enjoying some great Maryland craft beer.  Photo Credit: Peter Franchot.

Maryland’s iron cartel of manufacturers, wholesalers, licensees and supportive politicians has kept in place a stable, profitable system for a long time.  The just-concluded brewery bill is only the most recent manifestation of their control of Annapolis.  So opening up the beer industry is an uphill battle.  But if Franchot, the craft industry, its customers and maybe Hogan can make this a signature issue in an election year…?  Well, pull up a stool, grab a mug and get ready for the show!

Disclosure: Your author has done campaign-related work for Peter Franchot in the past.  His positions on issues like this one, including Montgomery County’s liquor monopoly, have earned my support.


Franchot’s Staff Troll Ferguson on Facebook

Hogan and Franchot Get Ready for the Cameras

Governor Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot have been grandstanding in fine fashion lately. They are both outraged that Baltimore County and City are not installing air conditioning fast enough throughout the school system.

Hogan has more control over the budget than any other governor in the nation. He could have easily included the money for A/C in the budget without an iota of opposition but chose not to do so. Instead, he has set up a grandstanding moment with Franchot to deny the City and County monies needed for other school projects until they agree to install A/C in one year.

They kindly dumped the decision of what other projects the City and County should forego for the A/C on the Maryland School Construction Committee (IAC). Normally, this Committee reviews local projects to make sure they are ready to go and comply with other complex state requirements. Local governments determine which projects are needed in line with the Republican principle of local control – something that has gone out the window here.

Former Sen. and IAC Member Barbara Hoffman is shrewd and nobody’s patsy. She said correctly that this wasn’t the Committee’s job and moved to pass the job back to Hogan and Franchot on the Board of Public Works, who are eager to take credit for A/C but don’t want to explain why they are nixing taking care of problems like unsafe drinking water, fire safety and collapsing roofs. Even Hogan’s representatives on the Board voted for Hoffman’s motion.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has gone one better and agreed to speed up the A/C but on the condition that the State reimburse the County for its share. Will Hogan and Franchot put their money with their mouths and agree to Kamenetz’s plan? Or will they demand that the County install A/C but not fix other very serious problems important to student safety?

Franchot’s Facebooking Staff

Meanwhile, Franchot’s staff seems to have little else to do but harry Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) on Facebook for standing up for his jurisdiction’s priorities. Montgomery’s state legislative delegation doesn’t try to reorder our County’s priorities either.

Here is Len Foxwell, Franchot’s Chief of Staff, interrogating Sen. Ferguson during normal business hours:


Apparently, Deputy Chief of Staff Emmanuel Welsh also has time to attack Ferguson on his Facebook page:


I suppose Communications Director Peter Hamm is arguably doing his job by spending time on Facebook taking potshots at Sen. Ferguson:


And here is more of Chief of Staff Foxwell:


Communications Director Peter Hamm condescendingly calls Sen. Ferguson “pal” on Facebook. Proof, once again, that you may grow up but adolescence is forever.


Press Secretary Alan Brody is also getting in on the fun:


I never understand why politicians, let alone their staff, go after other politicians on Facebook pages besides their own. It rarely looks good.


Adam Pagnucco: Outside the Statehouse, Franchot is King

The following is a guest post by Adam Pagnucco:

Senate President Mike Miller and Comptroller Peter Franchot have renewed their decade-long feud, to the delight of journalists, bloggers and pundits alike. Whether it’s about slots, tax collection issues, Baltimore County public school air conditioners or just the joy of a good barroom brawl, the Miller-Franchot war sometimes abates but never ends. Speculation pops up every couple of years that the Senate President will find a challenger to take the Comptroller out. After all, Miller is arguably the most powerful non-Governor in Maryland history and the statehouse is his domain. But outside the statehouse, Franchot is King.

Why do I say that? Consider the following.

1. Statewide Results

Below are the vote totals and percentages of major party candidates for Governor, Comptroller and Attorney General for the last two general elections. (Attorney General Doug Gansler, who had no opponent in 2010, is omitted.) Franchot’s results are the best in the field. In fact, to find statewide politicians who regularly matched or exceeded his margins, you would have to go back more than a decade to the days of William Donald Schaefer, Louie Goldstein and Joe Curran.

Franchot Top Statewide Vote Getters

2. County Results

Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown was the ultimate creation of the state Democratic establishment. And Franchot? Well… let’s just say he’s not. Below is a comparison of the votes obtained by the two in every county in the 2014 general election. Franchot received more votes than Brown in every local jurisdiction, including Brown’s home base of Prince George’s. In the big three liberal jurisdictions (Montgomery, Baltimore City and Prince George’s), the vote totals for Brown and Franchot were similar, suggesting that loyal Democrats supported both of them. Franchot’s edge came from the rest of the state. He received at least 50% more votes than Brown in 15 of 24 counties, including the critical swing jurisdictions of Baltimore County and Anne Arundel. Brown carried just four jurisdictions against Larry Hogan – Prince George’s, Baltimore City, Montgomery and Charles. Franchot carried all of them in the general election, plus Anne Arundel, Baltimore County, Dorchester, Howard, Kent and Talbot. Tell me again why Franchot should fear the establishment?

Franchot County Results

3. Legislative Districts and Sub-District Results

The State Board of Elections has data on the performance of Franchot, Brown and Hogan for every one of Maryland’s 67 legislative districts and sub-districts. (The state has 47 Senate districts but many of them are carved up into smaller sub-districts for Delegates.) This further illuminates the electoral dominance of Franchot over Brown.

Franchot received more votes than Brown in 63 of the 67 districts. All four in which Brown did better were in Prince George’s. Franchot received more votes than either Brown OR Hogan in 32 districts – nearly half of them. Franchot’s occasional deviations from progressive orthodoxy didn’t hurt him in liberal Montgomery or Baltimore City, as he out-polled Brown in every district either entirely or partially within their boundaries.

In the following nine districts, Franchot received more than twice as many votes as Brown.

Franchot Brown DistrictsThese districts go from moderately red to deep red. They are represented by a combined 8 Republican Senators, 21 Republican Delegates and 1 Democratic Senator – Baltimore County’s renegade blue dog, Jim Brochin. In many of these places, liberal Democrats are considered alien life forms. But Franchot has a following here.

Perhaps the most interesting of these districts is Dundalk-based District 6. Dundalk is a fabled ancestral home of white, blue-collar, unionized Democrats, but it has been trending to the GOP. In 2014, Hogan defeated Brown here with 76% of the vote. Democratic Delegate John Olszewski Jr. lost the Senate race to unknown Republican Johnny Ray Salling, who raised just $15,429. The district’s three Delegate seats flipped from all Democratic to all Republican – and it wasn’t close. A Republican succeeded Olszewski’s father in Dundalk’s County Council seat with 62% of the vote. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz lost the fifteen Dundalk precincts to an obscure, underfinanced Republican by a 59-41% margin. Attorney General Brian Frosh lost to a no-name Republican here by 53-41%. But Franchot won the district 52-48.

I know what you’re thinking: Franchot had a weak opponent. Sure. But 2014 was a year in which seemingly weak Republicans had great success. They knocked out numerous Democratic incumbents, including prominent ones like Olszewski, Senator Roy Dyson, Delegates John Bohanan, David Rudolph and Norm Conway, and Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt. They came close to defeating Brochin and Senator Ron Young. The ultimate no-name Republican was Larry Hogan, a man who had never served in public office, had no starting name recognition and had to draw on public financing to compete with the MUCH better funded Anthony Brown. Remember when Brown referred to the general election as “a little bit of a mole hill?” But Hogan won in the best year in recent memory for “weak” Republicans. Amid all this tumult, Franchot increased his win margin in the general election by two points over 2010.

Here is the key question: could it be that Franchot’s socially liberal, fiscally moderate stance combines the best of Hogan and Brown and has made him Maryland’s most popular state-level Democrat? Maryland voters approved gay marriage and the Dream Act in 2012, and according to a recent Washington Post poll, support many liberal priorities. But they elected an openly anti-tax Governor and, according to the above poll, rank the economy and taxes as their second and third issue priorities. (Education is number one.) This mix of liberalism and moderation fits Franchot’s issue profile better than any other prominent Maryland politician.

Democrats should ponder all of this as they prepare to campaign against Hogan in 2018.


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.