Following Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot’s announcement this month that he is running for governor in 2022, at least two Montgomery County Democrats are considering seeking the job Franchot will leave.
Del. Kumar Barve of Rockville said this week he is “looking very seriously” at running for comptroller. State Sen. Brian Feldman of Potomac confirmed that “it’s something I’m taking a look at.”
Both Barve and Feldman also considered running for the post during the 2014 election cycle, until Franchot — after a prolonged flirtation with a gubernatorial race at that time — decided instead to seek re-election to a third term as comptroller.
Meanwhile, County Council Member Tom Hucker of Silver Spring — a former Democratic member of the House of Delegates — acknowledged that the comptroller’s race “is something … some friends and other elected officials have encouraged me to look into.” But, while stopping well short of shutting the door on the race, Hucker was noncommittal when asked how seriously he is considering it.
“I haven’t had any time to consider it,” he said, adding: “It’s always flattering when people encourage you to look into some other role. But I’m very happy with my current job, and it keeps me very busy.” Hucker also characterized discussion of the 2022 comptroller’s race as “pretty premature — we have a presidential race in front of us.”
However, Franchot’s disclosure nearly three years prior to the next election that he is running for governor may force those thinking about succeeding him to expedite their timetable for a decision.
There has been an open seat race for comptroller only twice in the past 60 years, most recently in 1998 upon the death of Louis Goldstein, who held the job for nearly 40 years. Franchot, of Takoma Park, first won the position in 2006 by ousting Goldstein’s successor, former Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
In light of how infrequently the post becomes available, the statewide field of candidates to succeed Franchot in 2022 is likely to be expansive as well as diverse: Female and minority aspirants are expected to emerge for a job that, to date, has been held exclusively by white males.
Among the potential contenders: Del. Brooke Lierman of Baltimore, who grew up in Bethesda and whose father, former Maryland Democratic Chair Terry Lierman, is a longtime political insider who once ran for Congress from the Montgomery-based 8th District.
Brooke Lierman, 40, an attorney first elected to the House of Delegates in 2014, raised campaign funds at a furious pace during 2019 with an eye to a run for higher office, possibly comptroller or governor, which also comes open in 2022, when current GOP Gov. Larry Hogan is term-limited.
A source close to Lierman, who requested anonymity to speak freely, said the legislator is “putting together an infrastructure and the financing that would make her strong enough to run for governor. So when it comes to the comptroller’s race, if she decides to move in that direction, she would be a formidable candidate.”
Lierman raised a hefty $245,100 in 2019, and had almost $247,000 in her campaign treasury at the beginning of January, according to annual disclosure reports filed last week with the State Board of Elections.
While the majority of Lierman’s funds came from the Baltimore area, many of her contributions underscored ties to the Washington area and Montgomery County. Among her notable donations: $19,000 from the family of the late professional sports team owner and real estate developer Abe Pollin, including from two family members who reside in Chevy Chase.
Feldman, 58, was also active on the fundraising circuit. He raised more than $133,000 — the most among the eight members of Montgomery County’s Senate delegation — and ended 2019 with nearly $242,500 on hand.
Barve raised $56,500 last year, for a campaign treasury of nearly $120,000. Hucker took in $41,600, expanding his campaign bank account to $127,300.
Feldman was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2002 and moved to the Senate in 2013. He is currently vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee and, in that capacity, frequently has served as the Senate Democrats’ point person on health-related issues. That included efforts to codify portions of the federal Affordable Care Act at the state level to cover Maryland residents, in response to the Trump administration’s bid to roll back so-called “Obamacare.”
Feldman is a certified public accountant and tax attorney who worked in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Tax Division before serving in the legislature. The comptroller is the state’s chief tax collector, and as one of three members of the Board of Public Works — along with the governor and state treasurer — has major influence over state contracts and capital expenditures.
Barve, 61, holds an accounting degree from Georgetown University and, for the past 25 years, has been chief financial officer of Rockville-based Environmental Management Services.
First elected to the House of Delegates in 1990, he is the longest serving of Montgomery County’s 32 senators and delegates. He was House majority leader from 2003 to 2015, and then assumed his current post as chair of the Environment and Transportation Committee — where his work has earned praise from environmental groups. He made an unsuccessful run for the Democratic nomination in the 8th Congressional District in 2016.
Hucker, 51, served two terms in the House of Delegates before his election to the County Council in 2014, where he is currently vice president and chair of the Transportation and Environment Committee.
In the latter capacity, he has played a leading role in the debate over Hogan’s controversial I-495/I-270 proposal — with Hucker and other county officials resisting the governor’s plan to widen the section of I-495 running through Bethesda and Silver Spring. As founder of the advocacy group Progressive Maryland before he was elected to the General Assembly, Hucker has close ties to organized labor that could benefit him in a crowded statewide Democratic primary.
Franchot is only the second Montgomery County resident to be elected comptroller, a job that a Republican has not held in 120 years.
While he first won the post following the 2006 Democratic primary in which he attacked the incumbent from the left, Franchot has since shifted toward the center of the political spectrum — forging alliances with Hogan, while frequently warring with the Democratic leaders of the General Assembly.
Democratic legislative leaders fired back last year by successfully stripping the comptroller of his powers to regulate alcohol and tobacco, in part a response to Franchot’s use of his office as a bully pulpit to promote the state’s craft brewing industry. In a largely party-line vote, both Barve and Feldman supported shifting those regulatory powers to an independent commission.