Anti-Slots Leader Decries Franchot's Tactics
Charles E. Graham, the chairman of Marylanders United To Stop Slots, said today that he is considering stepping down out of frustration with the tactics of Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), the most visible member of the anti-slots group.
Graham, the business manager for a Washington-area electricians union, said in an interview that he remains morally opposed to slot-machine gambling and believes it will increase social ills in Maryland. But Graham said Franchot has taken the campaign against the Nov. 4 slots referendum in a direction he did not anticipate.
"I was under the impression we were going to talk about the issues," Graham said. "But the problem is it's become personal, and the attacks on the governor, I don't want to be a part of that. ... It's not what I signed up for."
Graham was referring to comments Franchot has made about Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), a slots supporter. Among other things, Franchot has accused O'Malley of "standing with the special interests that want to buy this election."
Graham said "the final straw" for him was Marylanders United's first television ad, which has started airing in Baltimore.
The ad urges voters not to trust politicians in Annapolis "who in tough times raised our taxes a billion dollars." That is a reference to last year's special legislative session, in which lawmakers followed O'Malley's lead in raising taxes as part of a larger budget package.
"He's attacked every politician in Annapolis except himself," Graham said of Franchot.
Scott Arceneaux, a senior adviser to Marylanders United, called Graham's comments "unfortunate." But Arceneaux said the group's steering committee has close to 140 members, many of whom have different ideas about what strategies to pursue.
Separately yesterday, Franchot released a letter to Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Michael Cryor complaining about being "intentionally left off the program" at a party fundraiser in Baltimore on Monday night. Franchot said his snub resulted from fear that he would speak about slots.
"This was petty and below the dignity of the Maryland Democratic Party," Franchot wrote. "When did Maryland's political bosses allow our Party - the Party of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Obama - to be taken over by the national gambling industry? Apparently this happened when a few political bosses decided to pay off some campaign contributors and well-connected lobbyists with a plan to sell taxpayers down the river and amend Maryland's constitution with slots."
Graham said he may resign as chairman of the steering committee of Marylanders United.
"It's a moot point for me to do that with seven days left, but I'm thinking about it," he said.
The O'Malley-backed slots plan would authorize up to 15,000 machines at locations in Allegany, Anne Arundel, Cecil and Worcester counties and in the city of Baltimore.
A Washington Post poll last week showed Maryland voters favored the measure, 62 percent to 36 percent.
Graham's union, IBEW Local No. 26, has its headquarters in Lanham and represents electricians in the District of Columbia, five counties in Maryland, 44 counties in Virginia, and two counties in West Virginia. Graham said the union has nearly 9,000 members.
October 28, 2008; 12:31 PM ET
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