Ho­gan, Fran­chot hold out a bi­par­ti­san model

Gover­nor and comptroller reach across party lines to forge friend­ship, al­liance

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Erin Cox ecox@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Eri­natTheSun

What’s been dubbed the “Mary­land bro­mance” be­tween Repub­li­can Gov. Larry Ho­gan and Demo­cratic Comptroller Peter Fran­chot is on pub­lic dis­play twice a month at meet­ings of the Board of Pub­lic Works, but they usu­ally don’t dis­cuss it di­rectly.

“I can prom­ise you we talk about gar­den­ing,” Fran­chot said Fri­day, de­scrib­ing the pair’s oc­ca­sional din­ners. “We talk about our kids. We talk about art. And we do not talk about pol­i­tics.”

Ho­gan in­ter­jected with a play­ful cor­rec­tion. “I don’t re­ally talk much about gar­den­ing,” he said.

Fran­chot brought up the friend­ship as the pair shared a stage on his home turf of Montgomery County. He told the crowd, gath­ered for their dis­cus­sion and a break­fast hosted by the Greater Bethesda Cham­ber of Com­merce, that he hoped his bi­par­ti­san friend­ship with a Repub­li­can would be a model for tran­scend­ing to­day’s di­vi­sive po­lit­i­cal cli­mate.

“Frankly, I think it’s unique in the coun­try,” Fran­chot said. “Maybe, gover­nor, we should go on the road?”

For his part, Ho­gan heaped praise on Fran­chot for his role on the three-mem­ber Board of Pub­lic Works, the panel that over­sees bil­lions in state spend­ing and where the two have formed a po­lit­i­cal al­liance and a friendly rap­port.

The cozy re­la­tion­ship is po­lit­i­cally ex­pe­di­ent for both men.

Fran­chot ac­knowl­edges he is at odds with Democrats who run the Gen­eral As­sem­bly. And Ho­gan, whose party makes up less than 30 per­cent of Mary­land vot­ers, said he needs the help of Democrats and in­de­pen­dents to get any­thing done.

Ho­gan’s ap­proval rat­ing in re­cent polls ex­ceeds 70 per­cent. His al­liance with Fran­chot is a cor­ner­stone of the gover­nor’s pitch that he works across the aisle, even though he’s fre­quently at log­ger­heads with the lead­er­ship of the leg­is­la­ture.

“I re­ally be­lieve that the peo­ple in Mary­land and peo­ple in Amer­ica are com­pletely frus­trated with pol­i­tics,” Ho­gan said. “They’re mad at Repub­li­cans. They’re mad at Democrats. They’ve lost faith in the sys­tem, and they hate the par­ti­san­ship and name-call­ing and the fin­ger-point­ing.”

Peo­ple in the state “wish that Democrats and Repub­li­cans could ac­tu­ally reach across the aisle and come up with real, bi­par­ti­san, com­mon-sense so­lu­tions,” he said. “That’s what we’re ac­tu­ally do­ing to­gether here in Mary­land.”

Ho­gan and Fran­chot have teamed up to chas­tise state agen­cies that ask the board to ap­prove con­tracts for which a sin­gle com­pany has bid. Fran­chot said Fri­day they’ve re­duced the num­ber of such con­tracts by 67 per­cent.

The pair tried to use the bully pul­pit at the Board of Pub­lic Works to per­suade Demo­cratic Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz, who is con­sid­er­ing a run for gover­nor, to more quickly in­stall air con­di­tion­ing in county schools. When that didn’t work, Fran­chot and Ho­gan voted to with­hold state fund­ing un­til he com­plied.

They also joined forces to re­quire Mary­land schools to start af­ter La­bor Day, long a sig­na­ture is­sue for the comptroller. When Ho­gan was asked Fri­day to re­spond to crit­i­cism about it, Fran­chot in­ter­rupted to come to the gover­nor’s de­fense.

“Can I just jump in?” Fran­chot asked the mod­er­a­tor of the dis­cus­sion. “Be­cause I feel kind of bad. I’m the one who took this is­sue to the gover­nor and asked him to go ahead and pro­mul­gate the ex­ec­u­tive or­der.”

“No one’s com­plain­ing about you!” Ho­gan said.

Ho­gan and Fran­chot ban­tered over pol­icy and in­sisted they don’t al­ways see eye to eye, but when pressed by re­porters af­ter­ward, there was lit­tle dis­agree­ment be­tween them.

Fran­chot said Ho­gan wanted big­ger tax cuts than he does, be­cause the comptroller be­lieves there isn’t enough rev­enue to sup­port them. Ho­gan said sig­nif­i­cant tax cuts aren’t prac­ti­cal right now given the fis­cal cli­mate.

It wasn’t un­til this past sum­mer — about 18 months af­ter the gover­nor took of­fice — that Ho­gan and Fran­chot voted dif­fer­ently on a pro­posed con­tract award. At the time, Ho­gan joked that now Fran­chot could tell fel­low Democrats they weren’t in lock­step.

Fran­chot’s al­liance with Ho­gan has drawn the ire of Annapolis Democrats, who ques­tion why he’s sup­port­ing a pop­u­lar Repub­li­can gover­nor in­stead of mem­bers of his own party.

Fran­chot pub­licly ac­knowl­edged the rift Fri­day. He said jok­ingly that when Ho­gan re­cently asked what he could do to help, the comptroller re­sponded, “Gover­nor, keep your dis­tance.”

The comptroller said he de­cided to “form a strate­gic part­ner­ship” with Ho­gan af­ter other lead­ing Democrats re­buffed his sug­ges­tion to look into why so many Democrats voted for Ho­gan in the gover­nor’s up­set win in 2014.

He sug­gested other Democrats spend less en­ergy fo­cus­ing on turnout and more on tai­lor­ing their mes­sage to re­cap­ture Demo­cratic votes that went to Ho­gan.


Repub­li­can Gov. Larry Ho­gan, cen­ter, and Demo­cratic Comptroller Peter Fran­chot, shown in Au­gust, have es­tab­lished a po­lit­i­cal al­liance that could ben­e­fit both — while ir­ri­tat­ing Demo­cratic lead­ers in Mary­land’s leg­is­la­ture.

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