Category Archives: Peter Franchot

Franchot to General Assembly: Time for Lamone to Go

By Adam Pagnucco.

Comptroller Peter Franchot, who has previously called for the resignation of state elections administrator Linda Lamone, has sent the email below to every member of the General Assembly.


Dear Senators and Delegates:

In case you missed it, I wanted to share with you this piece by The Seventh State’s Adam Pagnucco regarding the fiasco that unfolded earlier this week in our primary elections as well as the historical context of Linda Lamone’s leadership of the State Board of Elections.

Like you, I was deeply disappointed and remain very frustrated by the manner in which the June 2 elections were administered by the State Board of Elections, specifically in Baltimore City. The City of Baltimore, the State of Maryland, and our country are already facing far too many existential challenges without corroded public confidence in the integrity of our democratic process and in the legitimacy of the outcomes.

As you may know, during Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting, Lt. Governor Rutherford and I joined together in a bipartisan fashion to call for Administrator Lamone’s resignation. The failure to properly execute the June 2 election, along with the challenges that we are all aware of in previous elections, warrant Administrator Lamone’s resignation or removal from office.

However, as you know, thanks to a 2005 bill enacted by the General Assembly, widely referred to as the “Linda Lamone for Life” law, her termination by the State Board of Elections is made all the more challenging thanks to the passage of this legislation. The law now requires that the Administrator – even if terminated by the State Board of Elections – can remain in office until the Senate advises and consents to a replacement. No other employee of state government enjoys this level of statutory job protection.

The choice that the Senate makes on the future of Linda Lamone is one between efficient stewardship of our elections and gross administrative incompetence. It is a choice between voter empowerment and voter disenfranchisement. It is a choice between a system in which people can have confidence in the integrity of their institutions of government and one in that makes them question the legitimacy of our elections and outcomes. It is my sincere hope that the Senate will come to the same conclusion that I and the vast majority of Marylanders have made: it is time for new, competent leadership at the State Board of Elections.

Thank you for your consideration.


Peter Franchot


Franchot: Lamone Must Go

By Adam Pagnucco.

Comptroller Peter Franchot has joined Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford in calling for the resignation of State Board of Elections administrator Linda Lamone in the wake of the botched Baltimore City Council District 1 election. Franchot made the following statement on Facebook.


Yes, we do have a problem with the Baltimore City elections. A very big problem, in fact. Namely, voter disenfranchisement through gross administrative incompetence and widespread, citywide irregularities.

Inexcusable delays in the disbursement of ballots.

Inaccurate, misleading information on those same ballots.

Firsthand accounts, of which there are far too many to reference here, of Marylanders enduring unacceptable barriers to their constitutional right to vote.

Such as ballots that were never received in the mail.

Unacceptably long lines at the limited number of polling stations that were actually open. And people being told at the polls that they had already voted when, in fact, that wasn’t the case.

Bizarre and obviously mistaken vote totals being posted to the our state’s official board of elections website that caused undue public confusion.

And this morning, more than 12 hours after the polls were supposed to have closed in Baltimore City, the residents and business owners of this city in crisis had no timely updates on the outcome of the races for mayor, council president, city comptroller and various city council seats.

All we can be sure of today is that people who had the right to vote didn’t receive a ballot. People who didn’t have the right to vote DID. And that, regardless of whatever outcomes are eventually posted by our state and city elections boards, they will be subjected to widespread skepticism if not credible legal challenges.

Our city, state and country are already facing far too many existential challenges without corroded public confidence in the integrity of our democratic process and in the legitimacy of the outcomes. Yet that’s what is happening today, yet again, in our state.

It’s time for an end to the endless excuses. It’s time for a new culture of accountability and competence. It’s time for our longtime state elections administrator, Linda Lamone, and our city’s election director, Armstead Jones, to resign from their respective positions.


Franchot: Reopen Outdoor Seating at Restaurants

By Adam Pagnucco.

Comptroller Peter Franchot has called for the reopening of outdoor seating at restaurants. His statement on Facebook is reprinted below.


At the start of today’s meeting of the Board of Public Works, I called for the State of Maryland to begin the process of allowing our restaurants to serve customers OUTSIDE on patios, sidewalks and even streets that are closed for vehicular traffic.

While I do not believe we are ready to allow indoor seating and service, based upon all of the available data, I feel that we have to make this allowance in order to give our restaurants – the cornerstone of a hospitality sector that employs 458,000 people in our state – a fighting chance to survive. They just cannot make it on carryout and deliveries alone.

This new outdoor seating policy would have to be done with true adherence to social distancing and other preventative best practices, and we know that it CAN be done. To state the obvious, outdoor seating is far safer than indoor seating, and my fear is that if we don’t make this common sense policy adjustment sooner rather than later, we won’t have a restaurant industry left to save.

In short, let’s do it safely, responsibly and soon. Let’s #TakeItOutside.


MoCo’s Most Influential, Part Three

By Adam Pagnucco.

Part One of this series laid out the rules and methodology for how we determined MoCo’s most influential people. These lists were developed by adding together the nominations of 85 people who are themselves extremely knowledgeable and influential. Let’s see what they had to say!

9. Council Member Hans Riemer (At-Large) – 21 votes

Source: Executive candidate in waiting often speaks for the Council.

Source: Hans is definitely going after Marc Elrich, and has been for a long time. So he has been making bold plays and making change.

Source: ADUs, 5G, solar farms – it is what we are talking about. Also gearing up for run for CE means he is putting himself out there.

AP: So far, the leader of the resistance to County Executive Marc Elrich, especially on the issue of housing. He is taking fire from Elrich supporters and that might have given him pause in the past. But the 2020 version of Riemer has a harder edge than the guy I worked for years ago, and if he really does take on Elrich, he is going to need it.

8. State Senator Brian Feldman (D-15) – 23 votes

Source: A go-to sponsor on so many important measures.

Source: Quietly extremely effective.

Source: Strongest MoCo Senate voice we have.

AP: Smart, pragmatic, respected and has seen a lot in nearly two decades in office. We could use another couple dozen like him, but if all we get is one Brian Feldman, we’ll take him.

7. U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen – 25 votes

Source: Able to quickly translate his House expertise in politics and policy to the Senate.

Source: Best Senator ever.

AP: CVH has been arguably MoCo’s most popular politician for nearly two decades. He may be in the U.S. Senate now but he can still tap into his old Downcounty base whenever he wants support for whatever he does in the future.

6. Comptroller Peter Franchot – 28 votes

Source: Wields a lot of power from the perch of the Board of Public Works.

Source: Perhaps the most adept politician in the state outside the Governor himself. He’s smartly begun cultivating support outside of his typical base of centrist whites, but his gubernatorial bid might nevertheless be reliant on enough room in his ideological lane.

Source: Love him or hate him, he has a big impact on Maryland with his Board of Public Works vote and bromance with the Governor.

AP: What politician can serve more than 30 years in office and still run as an outsider? Peter Franchot, that’s who! Franchot has built his brand on fiscal conservatism, fighting “the machine,” and crusading for underdogs on issues ranging from school air conditioners to expanding craft beer. His crack team, led by master strategist Len Foxwell, is the best in Annapolis.

5. State Senator Will Smith (D-20) – 31 votes

Source: It’s wonderful to have the Senate Judicial Proceedings gavel in progressive hands.

Source: Most visible sign of Annapolis’s ideological and demographic shifts, though perhaps won’t be in the Senate much longer.

Source: If the Governor is telling you to resign, you’re probably doing something right.

Source: No political star has risen faster.

AP: Think about how incredible this trajectory is. Will Smith gets elected to the House in 2014. He is appointed to the Senate in 2016. He becomes Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee this year. After getting blasted by Governor Larry Hogan over crime legislation, he gets a package of crime bills passed including some of the governor’s priorities just a couple weeks later. Now he is ranked as one of the most influential elected officials in Montgomery County and folks are talking about him as a potential statewide candidate. Few elected officials anywhere rise this fast.

Coming next: our earth-shattering Final Four!


Franchot Chief of Staff Blasts Wilkins

By Adam Pagnucco.

Comptroller Peter Franchot’s Chief of Staff, Len Foxwell, has been in state politics for decades and has seen his share of hard knocks. (Len is famous for once calling MCGEO President Gino Renne “the Greg Hardy of Montgomery County politics.”) So when someone like Foxwell characterizes a politician’s statement as “one of the most irresponsible and potentially harmful public statements I’ve seen from an elected official in my 25 years in this business,” that gets my attention.

The fracas began after Maryland Matters published an article in which Franchot suggested that consumers, tenants and utility customers ask for extensions in paying rent and fees. Franchot said, “Don’t write checks to your creditors until you talk to your creditors… It allows consumers to preserve what’s in their pockets in a normal time.” The article quoted a bankers association executive and a utility executive encouraging customers to contact creditors, claiming that some would be flexible.

Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins (D-20) wasn’t having it. She fired off a tweet that said, “For some reason, I don’t think this will go over well. ‘Excuse me landlord, may I have a 3-month rent holiday?’ This is a joke. Executive action is needed to provide relief to consumers.”

That prompted the eruption below from Foxwell, who – among other things – said, “So many of the financial institutions we’ve spoken to over the past week understand the uncharted territory our country has entered, and are able and willing to work with their borrowers to help them through this period of trauma. Instead of supporting this sound, proven advice, which could save people’s homes, cars, credit ratings, and cash reserves, Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins has gone the other way. She would, apparently, rather indulge hazy, long-forgotten old political grudges against the Comptroller for the sake of banking a few likes and social media fist bumps.”

It’s worth noting that the Comptroller has no statutory or regulatory authority to force creditors to extend terms for debtors. But the General Assembly may have authority to intervene. Delegate Wilkins may wish to draft legislation on the issue.

Finally, let’s consider the view of Denizens Brewing Company co-owner (and former Lieutenant Governor candidate) Julie Verratti, who replied to Delegate Wilkins’ tweet and essentially said, “Why not do both?”

Makes sense to me. How about you, dear readers?


Franchot Blasts Liquor Monopoly

By Adam Pagnucco.

After reading our post on the county liquor monopoly’s takeout cocktail ban, Comptroller Peter Franchot has come out swinging against the monopoly.  The Comptroller wrote on his Facebook page:

As your Comptroller and as a Montgomery County resident, this story makes me viscerally frustrated. There is no constructive purpose served by the continued existence of our government-run alcohol monopoly. It is inefficient, costly and unresponsive to the needs of its customers.

Now, at a time when our restaurants, bars and taverns are looking at possible financial ruin as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and are fighting a daily battle simply to survive, we get this tone-deaf ruling from the Department of Liquor Control. By prohibiting the sale of liquor and mixed drinks for carryout and home delivery, the DLC is acting in violation of both Governor Hogan’s Executive Order and a basic standard of common sense.

If there ever was a time for an outdated government agency to flaunt its administrative prerogatives, this certainly isn’t it. Hoping the DLC will reverse this ruling and do everything it possibly can to support our local, community-based businesses. Or, failing that, at least get out of the way while the rest of us help them #KeepTheLightsOn.

Franchot even took out a Facebook ad for this post.  At the moment, his post has 116 reactions, 40 comments and – most critically – 27 shares.  The original blog post has been shared countless more times across Facebook.

With outrage growing against the monopoly, it must lift the ban or face a renewed push to abolish it.

What will it do?


Franchot Endorses Blair

By Adam Pagnucco.

Comptroller Peter Franchot has endorsed County Executive candidate David Blair.  Franchot is popular with moderate, anti-establishment and pro-business Democrats and this could help Blair consolidate those groups.  We reprint Franchot’s blast email below.



As a proud Montgomery Countian who has lived in Takoma Park for nearly 40 years, I’m proud of the caliber of the candidates who are running to succeed my friend, the great Ike Leggett, as our County Executive. When we head to the polls on June 26, or during the early voting period, we will have the privilege of choosing one of several talented public servants with records of true accomplishment in both local and state government.

As your Comptroller and Maryland’s Chief Fiscal Officer, I believe we must elect the candidate with the right blend of values, experience and vision to ensure our County’s long-term competitiveness and economic prosperity. For me, that candidate is David Blair.

David is a lifelong Montgomery Countian who built one of America’s most successful health care companies right here in the county – one that began in a single room and went on to sustain thousands of family-supporting jobs. There is nobody who has a clearer understanding than David of the pressures facing Montgomery County’s working, middle-class families – far too many of whom have seen the size of their paychecks stagnate while the costs of living continue to rise.

There is also nobody who knows better than David that Montgomery County simply cannot sustain necessary investments in exceptional public schools, gridlock relief, safer communities and community reinvestment if we do not act immediately to create a stronger and more competitive business climate. The priorities that we all share are essential, but none of them are free.

That is why it is so essential that we create an environment where the government is more responsive to the entrepreneurs and small business owners who are the backbone of our economy. That’s why it’s so vital to send the message that in Montgomery County, economic development and social justice are complementary values, and that one cannot occur in the absence of the other. And it’s why we must embrace policies that allow the innovation of the free market to thrive – beginning with an end to the government liquor monopoly that has done such a profound disservice to our consumers, small business owners and the Montgomery County economy. This is the change that David Blair will bring to Montgomery County.

David has the vision and the experience of a leader. As someone who has given so much back to our community through his work to end homelessness and poverty, create better early childhood learning opportunities and improve the lives of people with disabilities, he also has the values of a true public servant.  David Blair is my choice for Montgomery County Executive, and I respectfully ask that you consider his candidacy.

To learn more about David and his campaign, please visit

Thank you, as always, for your continued friendship and support.



Four More Years for Franchot

By Adam Pagnucco.

For many months, rumors have abounded about the Democratic establishment seeking to find a primary challenger to its hated nemesis, Comptroller Peter Franchot.  But at the close of candidate filing, it became clear that the effort to oust Franchot had failed.  The Comptroller has no Democratic opponent, and with only an unknown Republican running against him, Franchot is certain to get four more years in office.

Among the statehouse’s leadership, Governor Larry Hogan is regarded as a rival but not a bitter enemy.  That’s because since the Governor is a Republican, a certain amount of political competition is expected.  Franchot, on the other hand, is despised by the Annapolis Democratic ruling class.  As a Democrat and a former twenty-year Delegate, someone in Franchot’s position would normally be expected to be a loyal player on Team Dem.  Instead, the Comptroller is the leader of Team Franchot – a team with different interests and tactics than Team Dem – and the leaders revile him as an apostate.

Understanding Franchot requires breaking out of the conventional political box – something the Comptroller specializes in.  Here are four facts about Franchot that players in state politics should recognize.

He Has Built a Thirty-Year Career on Rebellion Against Authority

Let’s go back to 1986.  District 20 State Senator Stewart Bainum was leaving his seat to run for Congress.  Two Delegates, Ida Ruben and Diane Kirchenbauer, ran for the open Senate seat.  But Ruben was not content to go to the Senate – she wanted to control the entire district.  So Ruben put together a slate including incumbent Delegate Sheila Hixson, MoCo Democrat of the Year Robert Berger and former Takoma Park City Council Member Lou D’Ovidio.  Franchot, then a young aide to Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey, was having none of it.  He launched an aggressive door-knocking campaign for Delegate running against lobbyists, greedy banks, insurance companies and “special interests” of all kinds.  Franchot finished first in the Delegate race, surpassing even Hixson, and learned an early lesson: revolting against the establishment, both political and economic, could be electorally rewarding.

Franchot targets special interests in a 1986 mailer.

That was just the beginning.  Two years later, Franchot ran a tough and occasionally negative race against the new darling of moderates in MoCo, Congresswoman Connie Morella.  (This is the only race Franchot would lose.)  In 1992, Franchot backed an ill-fated coup attempt against House Speaker Clay Mitchell.  Mitchell’s rival, Nancy Kopp, would go on to be rehabilitated, but Franchot was sent so far to the back of the bench that he could have been sitting in a Bay Bridge toll booth.  After the 2002 election, Franchot began running against Mister Maryland, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, and even took out a $750,000 loan on his house to do it.  After winning an upset victory, Franchot then fought with Governor Martin O’Malley and the legislature’s presiding officers over slots and other issues all the way through Hogan’s election.  And the fight goes on over craft beer.

Here is a partial list of all the establishment figures Franchot has taken on in the last thirty years: two incumbent Delegates in his home district, a popular Congresswoman, multiple House Speakers and the Senate President, a sitting Democratic Governor and one of Maryland’s most influential all-time political figures in Schaefer.  No other politician has assembled such a list and survived.  And yet here is Franchot, more than thirty years later, with no primary opponent.

He Champions Non-Partisan Issues

Think of some of the issues Franchot has taken on in the last decade: opposition to slots, cracking down on fraudulent tax returns, getting air conditioning in Baltimore County schools, opposing MoCo’s liquor monopoly, moving the start of school until after Labor Day and liberalizing state laws on craft beer.  These issues seem like an eclectic set but they have two things in common.  First, none of them are partisan or ideological issues.  Folks in the left, right and middle can agree on many of them.  And second, the constituencies in opposition are attractive opponents to have: casino conglomerates, tax cheaters, corporate mega-beer producers and incompetent bureaucrats.  To quote former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, from a political perspective this is [expletive deleted] golden.  Franchot has picked up allies and admirers in all these fights who range all over the political spectrum and will never desert him.  How many Maryland politicians can make that claim?

Moreover, despite the contempt that the establishment holds for Franchot, he has had his share of wins.  Pressure from Franchot and Hogan has helped accelerate Baltimore County’s school construction program.  Hogan’s executive order on school openings after Labor Day, a Franchot idea, has gone unchallenged.  Last year, Franchot got a major tax fraud bill passed through the General Assembly.  And the current efforts to put slots money in a lockbox for education is a big vindication for Franchot, who has argued for a decade that gambling money was not used for schools as promised but has instead been poured into the general fund.  We will see how his current craft beer crusade turns out.

He Lacks Ambition and Fear

Most politicians are driven by ambition and fear.  Ambition, typically manifesting as a drive for higher office, causes politicians to take risks, stand out and appeal to critical interest groups.  Fear can be healthy when it aids self-preservation, including fear of being disliked, embarrassed, ostracized or losing an election.  The behavior of most politicians involves a competition and balance between these two competing traits.  In a sense, Franchot has neither of them.

Franchot’s absence of fear is obvious.  The scathing denunciations of Franchot by O’Malley, the legislature’s presiding officers, the Baltimore Sun editorial page and various dukes and barons of Annapolis would scare the living daylights out of most politicians.  Not Franchot.  He not only doesn’t care; the confrontations actually energize him.  Your author has seen him grin and rub his hands together in glee at the prospect of taking on folks whom he would call “bullies and bosses.”  No other influential figure in state politics acts like this.

But here’s the thing: Franchot also lacks any ambition for higher office.  He figured out some time ago that Comptroller is a great job.  Franchot doesn’t have to vote on controversial bills, draft budgets, raise taxes or say no to constituents.  He gets to travel around the state, hand out awards to small businesses, get involved with issues of his choice and, as long as tax refunds go out quickly and efficiently, he can do all of the above as long as he likes.  So he isn’t going to run for Governor, Congress or anything else.  That frees up Franchot from having to compete for all of the Democratic interest group support he would need in a competitive primary with quality opponents.  That means he gets to set his own agenda in a way other politicians can’t.  And boy, that has been a major asset to him.

The Establishment Handles Him Terribly

If you’re a leader in the Democratic establishment, there are only two ways to deal with the occasional and inevitable Franchot eruptions.  You can ignore them.  You can co-opt them.  Sometimes you can do both.  But whatever you do, don’t take on Franchot directly.  Then he gets to fight “bullies and bosses,” and either gets his way or he gets to be martyred in front of legions of adoring supporters.  Either way, he wins.

The recent craft beer fight is a good example of mishandling Franchot.  Maryland’s alcohol laws are notoriously anti-competitive, although they have very slowly begun to liberalize.  Franchot rightly criticizes the state’s beer franchise laws, which essentially establish state-sanctioned distribution cartels, and he ridiculed a requirement in a bill passed last year that craft breweries send some of their beer to distributors and buy it back before serving it in their tap rooms.  Then he set up a task force to give his proposed beer law reforms legitimacy and had his army of craft beer supporters descend on Annapolis.  What to do?

The rational response would be to ignore and co-opt.  From a strictly political perspective, the establishment should have given Franchot’s bill a polite hearing but otherwise ignored it.  Then they should have extracted pieces from it that the distributors could live with, pass those in a separate bill sponsored by state legislators who could use a bump, and declare victory.  Franchot would declare partial victory too, but who cares?

But this is Franchot so rationality went out the window.  Instead, the leaders put forth two bills: one to retract the improvements the craft breweries won last year and another to form a task force to study whether the Comptroller’s alcohol regulatory authority should be taken away.  The establishment’s reward was an all-day hearing that degenerated into a searing circus featuring angry and sputtering Delegates, militant craft beer advocates, allegations of payoffs through booze industry political contributions and a starring role for Franchot who got to denounce “back room deals.”  They gave Franchot exactly what he wanted: a swarming sea of fans and HUGE press attention.  How exactly is this supposed to encourage him to behave differently in the future?

Franchot preens like a peacock before press and supporters outside the House hearing room where his craft beer bill was discussed.  Credit: Franchot’s Facebook page.

The Bottom Line

There are 188 members of the General Assembly.  The place needs hierarchy to operate.  There must be organization, leadership, direction and consequences for violators.  Otherwise, nothing would get done.  All of this means that if the establishment didn’t exist, we would have to create one.

That said, establishments decay and become obsolete when they go unchallenged.  There’s a valuable role for disrupters like Franchot: they keep the leadership on its toes and make sure issues that do not originate solely within favored interest groups get addressed.  This push and pull keeps the place vibrant and relevant and, over the long run, makes it better.

The leadership may not always like that.  But they’re going to have to deal with it, at least for another four years.

Disclosure: The author has done campaign work for Peter Franchot in the past but has not worked on his current campaign on craft beer.