Comptroller dis­cusses en­dorse­ments, craft beer

The Avenue News - - NEWS - By NI­COLE RODMAN nrod­man@ches­pub.com Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Nrod­man_Ea­gle

As Elec­tion Day draws ever closer, Mary­land Comptroller Peter Fran­chot (D) took time from his sched­ule to sit down with the Av­enue ed­i­to­rial staff dur­ing a widerang­ing in­ter­view last month.

Fran­chot opened by dis­cussing his own cam­paign for re-elec­tion as Mary­land Comptroller. Fran­chot is seek­ing his fourth term as comptroller, run­ning against Repub­li­can chal­lenger An­jali Reed Phukan.

Fran­chot has long framed him­self as an in­de­pen­dent Demo­crat, be­holden not to party, but to the peo­ple.

“The cam­paign is much more about in­sid­ers ver­sus out­siders than it is lib­eral ver­sus con­ser­va­tive,” he said.

He painted a pic­ture of state Se­nate Pres­i­dent Sen. Mike Miller (D-27) and House of Del­e­gates Speaker Del. Michael Busch (D30A) as the ul­ti­mate state in­sid­ers, wield­ing “ab­so­lute con­trol.”

“It’s just a cor­ro­sive thing when you have unchecked power,” Fran­chot said of the long­time Demo­cratic con­trol of the state.

“What we need,” he noted, “are checks and bal­ances.”

Fran­chot has drawn some ire from mem­bers of his own party for such state­ments, and for his close work­ing re­la­tion­ship with in­cum­bent Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R).

He has also de­clined to en­dorse Demo­cratic gu­ber­na­to­rial nom­i­nee Ben Jeal­ous over Gov. Ho­gan in this year’s elec­tion.

Re­spond­ing to such crit­i­cism, Fran­chot noted that he is cam­paign­ing for Democrats “who are ca­pa­ble of stand­ing on their own two feet.”

He has en­dorsed Dun­dalk na­tive, Demo­crat John Ol­szewski Jr., for Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive, call­ing him “a breath of fresh air.”

Call­ing Ol­szewski’s Repub­li­can op­po­nent Al Red­mer “a good guy,” Fran­chot noted, “I think it’s a new day for the county.”

Fran­chot (and the Board of Pub­lic Works) came to odds with Kamenetz on the is­sue of air con­di­tion­ing in Bal­ti­more County Pub­lic Schools.

As part of his Schools for Our Fu­ture ini­tia­tive, Kamenetz laid out a multi-bil­lion-dol­lar plan to re­place and ren­o­vate county schools, guar­an­tee a/c in all by 2021.

Fran­chot crit­i­cized that time­line, call­ing for the in­stal­la­tion of por­ta­ble units in the mean­time. Kamenetz re­jected the idea and im­prac­ti­cal and ex­pen­sive.

He is sug­gest­ing that ev­ery county class­room with­out a/c have a split unit put in. The units would cost $1,000 each, plus a few hun­dred dol­lars for in­stal­la­tion. Fran­chot called such sys­tems, ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing a/c and heat, “ef­fi­cient” and cost-ef­fec­tive.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate the progress Bal­ti­more County has made,” he ac­knowl­edged, though he also pointed to the “8,000 kids in Bal­ti­more County that don’t have proper cli­mate con­trol.”

Fran­chot also crit­i­cized the Gen­eral Assem­bly’s move to strip the Board of Pub­lic Works of its author­ity over school con­struc­tion fund­ing, point­ing to is­sues of over­crowded schools and “crum­bling” in­fra­struc­ture in Bal­ti­more County.

“I think there is a lot of progress that can be made with a cre­ative use of pri­vate sec­tor money,” he noted.

While he has fo­cused on the Gov­ern­ment Cen­ter and schools, Fran­chot has also po­si­tioned him­self as a cham­pion for the craft beer in­dus­try. He lob­bied for leg­is­la­tion that would have loosen re­stric­tions on craft beer pro­duc­ers statewide, in­clud­ing Key Brew­ing here in Dun­dalk.

He also an­nounced his of­fice’s plans to in­ves­ti­gate Bud­weiser for what he called “dis­crim­i­na­tory mar­ket­ing.”

The beer pro­ducer, he claimed, sold a 77-pack of beer, fash­ioned like a keg, only in Col­lege Park on home­com­ing.

The move, he al­leged, was de­signed to pro­mote “home­com­ing binge drink­ing.”

“Some­thing like that needs to be cor­rected,” he said.

For now, Fran­chot is fo­cus­ing on his up­com­ing re-elec­tion bid.

Speak­ing of his op­po­nent, An­jali Reed Phukan, Fran­chot noted that “any­one who gets in the arena and runs de­serves re­spect.”

Of course, wher­ever Fran­chot goes, spec­u­la­tion of a fu­ture gu­ber­na­to­rial run fol­lows.

“I like what I’m do­ing,” he said when asked about a po­ten­tial run for gov­er­nor.

“I’ve got a good job,” he said, not­ing — with a smile — “I tried to get out of pol­i­tics by run­ning for comptroller.”

FILE PHOTO

Comptroller Peter Fran­chot (left) talks with Key Brew­ing co-owner Mike McDon­ald (far right) dur­ing a tour of the fa­cil­ity in 2017.

PETER FRAN­CHOT

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