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A Real Race for Comptroller?

Folks in the Maryland State House are buzzing about the recent signs of political trouble for one of Maryland's most senior public officials, William Donald Schaefer.

The longtime Baltimore mayor who served two terms as governor and is now Maryland's comptroller is facing a primary challenge this year from Del. Peter Franchot, of Takoma Park.

In a straw poll in Western Maryland--an historically unreliable measure of support, to be sure--Franchot clobber the political legend 154 to 6. Then comes word of a poll Franchot commissioned earlier this month. Garin Hart Yang Research Group surveyed 505 likely Democratic primary voters and found Schaefer's lead at a slim 42 percent to 36 percent, with 22 percent undecided.

Franchot allies suspect Schaefer, himself is to blame for the sagging numbers--his close alliance with Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. may have turned off some die-hard Democrats, and Schaefer suffered a PR blow when he ogled a young woman on the governor's staff in the midst of a board meeting. The incident, in which he beckoned the woman who brought him coffee to turn around and walk past him again, brought an onslaught of television coverage that eventually forced from him a rare (if half-hearted) apology.

Schaefer supporters, though, question the value of such measuring sticks, coming before any campaign has really gotten underway.

Schaefer spokesman Mike Golden advised Franchot to "enjoy the moment, because it's the closest he's going to get."

By  |  April 11, 2006; 5:17 PM ET
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"enjoy the moment, because it's the closest he's going to get."

Funny, isn't that what the young woman said to Mr. Schaefer as she walked by a second time?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2006 5:40 PM | Report abuse

I think that the Comptroller's spokesperson has it wrong. Let's face it, Schaefer crushes Franchot on name recognition alone. Seriously, everyone in the state knows the name William Donald Schaefer. But other than a few voters in Montgomery County and some political junkies who has even heard of Peter Franchot?

That Franchot is within six points when he hasn't even started campaigning yet can't be good news for Schaefer.

Posted by: Prince George's voter | April 11, 2006 7:15 PM | Report abuse

What a surprise! Who would have guessed that a poll commissioned by Peter Franchot would show that he's closing the gap with William Donald Schaefer in the race for the Democratic nomination for Comptroller? Amazing, isn't it? I'm sure the poll didn't ask leading questions of the huge sample of 505 likely Democratic voters surveyed. Reminds me of the old saw, "Liars figure and figures lie."

Posted by: mercury | April 11, 2006 9:33 PM | Report abuse

I agree, I actually SAW the memo that Franchot was proudly passing out yesterday and he's at 35% in the BALTIMORE media market. I can't imagine if he locks up the DC suburbs and stays that close in Baltimore we are looking at a new Comptroller in Maryland

Posted by: InAnnapolis | April 11, 2006 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Once voters look at what Peter stands for (nothing) and has accomplished in his career (nothing) they'll see what a vote for him will be worth (nothing).

Posted by: mercury | April 12, 2006 7:31 AM | Report abuse

Anyone is better than Schaefer. All I want from a candidate for comptroller is someone who conducts himself with some freakin' dignity. Is that really too much to ask from a public official?

Posted by: Mr. K | April 12, 2006 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Liberal Democrat here, and here's something I rarely - RARELY - ever say, but it's good to be clear about these things: If Schaefer wins the primary, I will be voting for the Republican in the general election.

Posted by: corbett | April 12, 2006 9:01 AM | Report abuse

As a Republican, if Schaeffer wins I'll be tempted to vote for him. He's a kook for sure, but he provides a lot of color to Maryland politics.

Posted by: MK | April 12, 2006 10:50 AM | Report abuse

WDS's latest embarrassing incident will hurt him with the general electorate. His threat to endorse Bobby Hairspray for governor if O'Mally wins the primary will hurt him with regular democrats. Willie's time is LONG past. If he had any dignity, he would walk away now.

Posted by: jmsbh | April 12, 2006 11:04 AM | Report abuse

I don't see HOW Schaefer wins the primary. He has alienated every single Democratic constituent group since becoming Comptroller. His latest gaffe was the last straw for a voter like me who has ALWAYS said with a chuckle, "Aww it's just WillieDon." I'm voting for Franchot.

Posted by: FedUp | April 12, 2006 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Schaefer looks at a little tail and he's deemed unfit for office. Glendening sleeps with a staffer, gets her pregnant and promotes her several pay grades and the guy is the darling of the so-called Progressives. Gotta love the liberal mind. You never know what you may find in there.

Posted by: mercury | April 12, 2006 12:19 PM | Report abuse

mercury, I'm always fascinated by the conservative mind that doesn't seem to understand the difference between a consensual relationship and open and public sexual harrassment. I guess to you, all women are just asking for it and they should be proud to get it, as WillieDon put it.

Schaefer has been pissing off Dems for years with his racism, sexism, open contempt for his own party, and overall ineffectiveness as a Comptroller.

People are tired of the side show, and his oogling of Ehrlich's aide in a public meeting simply showed incredibly poor judgment and a complete disregard for the woman's feelings. It was the straw that finally broke the camel's back, even if it was just a straw in your opinion.

Posted by: amused | April 12, 2006 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Amused, you should call yourself Confused. You jump to the wrong conclusion on everything. I am neither conservative nor liberal. I consider myself an independent, which means I make up my own mind rather than follow some narrow-minded ideology promoted by the left or the right. That's why Schaefer has pissed off the liberal Dems--because he dares to think independently. I'm sure if Harry Truman was alive today, you and your ilk would find him politically inconvenient. As for the ogling incident, no one, including me, denies that was a misstep by the Comptroller. However, juxtapose that with Glendening’s behavior. Just because it was a consensual situation, does that make it right for the Chief Executive of the state to sleep with a staff member and see to it that she gets huge increases in her salary as she does so. I thought prostitution was illegal--especially in the State House. But, I guess that's different since Parris is a "Good Democrat." Furthermore, I seem to remember Schaefer apologized for his mistake, but of course, that wouldn't be good enough for you. Confused, it was a nice touch to throw in the racism-sexism accusation, too. Based on what? Do you have any idea how many high-powered women and people of color are in positions of authority today because of William Donald Schaefer. No, you're not, because that would take knowledge on your part. Lastly, explain to me how WDS has been ineffective as Comptroller. From what I can tell, he runs a very efficient, taxpayer-friendly operation. But, that wouldn't matter. It's better to complain without the facts or a good argument so we can get an ineffective, unaccomplished weenie like Peter Franchot in the office because he's tired of being a Delegate.

Posted by: mercury | April 12, 2006 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I have voted for Schaefer, but I think there comes a time when you have to say, "retire." Mayor Schaefer is now 84 years old, his outbursts are no longer charming or done in a way to motivate people to do better or do it now. They seem to simply demean people. I just wish for his own legacy he would have retired when he was on top, now so many people will only remember Mayor Schaefer as a cranky old man who ogles staffers, demeans immigrants and people with HIV/AIDS. It seems to me he has no one left around him to say what he needs to hear, which is preserve an outstanding legacy of 50 years of public service before you shred every last piece of it. I for one just can't vote for him this time.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 12, 2006 1:47 PM | Report abuse

It's really a stretch to say that what Schaefer is doing today - hell, that anything he's done in the past decade - could possibly qualify as "thinking" much less "thinking for himself".

Posted by: corbett | April 12, 2006 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Amused and Corbett:

William Donald Schaefer is the MOST effective politician we have in Annapolis.

The man opens his mouth and homeless shelters are made better.

He calls Ehrlich "Glendenning Junior" and liberals flock back to him as their savior.

I have been a Democrat since before Al Gore invented the Internet and Bill Clinton got head in his ogle office.

Schaefer is the best thing ever to happen to Maryland politics.

I'll vote for Schaefer, the ONLY Democrat to make sense anymore and care about people and progress more than votes, because he's not afraid to make an ass of himself or anyone else -- if it means getting things done.

The best thing coming from Franchot's running for comptroller is that he won't be my delegate next year.

Thanks Peter.

Posted by: Montgomery BGE Victim | April 12, 2006 4:17 PM | Report abuse

BGE Victim,

You stink of Republican, but you stole my thunder.

Schaefer is the only Democrat I've seen stand up for the people this year.

He is the only one who even noticed that homeless shelter, let alone do anything about.

While Ehrlich and most of the Legislature fail us on BGE, Schaefer is the only one we can trust to speak objectively.

Schaefer (like the rest of us real people who will have electric bills we can't pay) speaks out how it is a crime against the people of Maryland. Our own State government is failing us.

Vote for a Democrat who represents the people. Vote Murray for Montgomery!

Posted by: D20Dems4Murray | April 12, 2006 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Whoever wrote the first comment made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 12, 2006 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who thinks William Donald Schaefer WASN'T good for the state is sorely mistaken, he was an excellent mayor of Baltimore, excellent Governor....but I did say WASN'T

Today, he is a horrible Comptroller. Under his watch the pension fund lost billions, they were audited for fudging numbers, the tax estimates were off for YEARS with no explanation other than an ooops and he has continually used his power to benefit his powerful friends.

The issue here is not William Donald Schaefer the man, myth and's the fact that he seems incapable of doing this job...

Posted by: Hold up a second | April 12, 2006 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Let's see...on the one hand, we have a legendary Maryland politician who:

Created the Inner Harbor

Brought football back to Baltimore

Got us to Ocean City that much faster

Promoted economic development while looking out for little people

Shepherded the state through one of its worst budget crises (the early 1990s--worse in many respects than the most recent one, about which he was also correct)

Increased electronic filing and promoted other efficiencies in the Comptroller's office

Cracked down on cigarette smugglers

Championed the sales tax free week

Has gotten corporations to pay their fair share of taxes (Delaware holding companies)

Spoken out through his terms as Comptroller for the homeless, the poor, taxpayers, and now ratepayers

And has been integral in maintaining the state's AAA bond rating for almost 16 years.

On the other hand, we have a 19-year delegate from the most liberal part of the state who has done what? Well, this past session he got no bills on which he was the primary sponsor passed. None of the four bills of substance he introduced, (three bond bills for his wealthy district, often known as pork, were rolled into the capital budget).

In 2005, he got one bill passed--to establish a consortium for purchasing college textbooks--of the 13 bills he introduced as primary sponsor. Two were bond bills, and on nine he had no cosponsors.

In 2004, he was 0 for 3 on his bills. In 2003, 0 for 11 (3 bond bills).

In 2002, the delegate was busy--27 bills introduced as primary sponsor. But 9 were bond bills, four were for task forces, and one was a joint resolution (essentially a statement of legislative intent). And he was the only sponsor on 13. Oh, and only one passed--a bond bill.

2001, 17 bills, ten were bond bills, sole sponsor on six, and two passed (both bond bills). 2000, 12 bills, seven were bond bills, and two passed (both bond bills). 1999, 15 bills, only four were bond bills, and five passed--only one was a bond bill, four were actually policy related! He was the sole sponsor on four. Throughout this period, many if not most of his bills with a cosponsor had cosponsors from his district only.

William Donald Schaefer has a record of working with others to get things done, and is still going strong at 84. There's only a handful of politicians in this state who have a fraction of his record of accomplishment. He has the respect of people across the political spectrum for his achievements.

He did it then, and he is doing it now.

The delegate has a record that is a fraction, albeit a vanishingly small one, of Comptroller Schaefer's. It is not one of accomplishment on policy, as demonstrated by a meager legislative record. It is not one of accomplishment on fiscal policy--chairman of a budget subcommittee while his ally Governor Glendening ran the state into a multi-billion dollar deficit (and chairman of a budget subcommittee who can't seem to get many of his bond bills passed). The delegate does not have a record as a legislator who works well with his colleagues.

The choice is easy.

Posted by: Only one choice--WDS | April 12, 2006 11:20 PM | Report abuse

Schaeffer WAS a great Dem. Everything about him is past tense. It's time for him to retire or embarass himself further.

Franchot has my vote.

Posted by: MCDem | April 13, 2006 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Nice message points there

Posted by: Clear who the Schaefer and Franchot staffers are... | April 13, 2006 8:56 AM | Report abuse

RE: Only one choice

Why not just use your name so that we can all see that you work for Mr. Schaefer.

Second, I'm not convinced that Mr. Schaefer is all that great any more. You're taking credit for things that Mr. Schaefer was on the sidelines for.

You claim that he looks out for little people (would those be the very low-income people that he unilaterally booted off of Medicaid when he was governor, for example?). I'm not aware of anything that suggests that Mr. Schaefer shares my views. I'm guessing that he is much closer to the developers than the "little people." It will be interesting to see what kind of endorsements Mr. Schaefer earns from labor, environment, immigrants and women's groups among others to see if your view is shared.

Finally, and most important, I don't care if the guy leaps tall buildings in a single bound. He's an embarassment and I'm not voting for him. He could be the best policy guy in the world, but that doesn't make up for being immature and cranky, and treating people like crap. If he wins the primary, I'm voting for the Republican.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 13, 2006 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Schaefer looks out for the little people? What world do you live in?

Was he looking out for the little people when he and Bob Ehrlich together decided to cut $40 million from the University system and $10 million from community colleges, without even consulting with the General Assembly? To make matters worse, at the same time that they were forcing increases in tuition they CUT FINANCIAL AID!

Schaefer and Ehrlich voted together to cut hospital care for people who were poor, old and sick and employment services for people who are blind.

Ehrlich and Schaefer joined together to cut cancer screening funds!

Touting Schaefer as the advocate for everyman is a nice marketing pitch, but it doesn't square with reality. He doesn't care about me, and he's not getting my vote.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 13, 2006 5:25 PM | Report abuse

This last one is a doozy! Probably the DA who wrote the last piece was referring to the votes taken by the Board of Public Works in approving cuts necessitated by the recession (It was widely reported in the newspapers at the time). Oh, and guess what? State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, described by Uber Weenie Franchot as a "good progressive Democrat," also voted with the evil twins, Schaefer and Ehrlich, in approving those cuts. In fact, Ms. Kopp has voted WITH Ehrlich more often on the BPW than Schaefer. Why don't you put that in your pipe and smoke it rather than the other stuff you've been inhaling.

Posted by: mercury | April 14, 2006 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Only one choice is a SPINDOCTOR for Schaefer on the public payroll. Most of the accomplishments he claims are part of the legacy left by the former Comptrollers Louis L. Goldstein and Robert L. Swann. The Maryland Comptrollers Office is but a shadow of its former self when it was rated as one of the finest in the nation. Its time for Schaefer to go!!!

Posted by: Former Comptroller | April 22, 2006 8:39 PM | Report abuse

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