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GOP comptroller candidates seek right to unseat Franchot

William H. Campbell

Maryland’s Comptroller, Democrat Peter Franchot, has a free pass in the state’s primary elections Sept. 14, but the state’s Republicans will choose one of three men—William H. Campbell, Armand Girard, or Brendan Madigan—to try to unseat him in the Nov. 2 general election. Compared to Franchot’s resources as a well financed incumbent, none of the three have the means to mount a traditionally competitive campaign. But all three have ideas for reform—and expectations for victory in both September and November—that they predict will draw  voters seeking improvements in Maryland’s fiscal outlook.

Considering that Madigan is an 18-year-old high-school student, and Girard is a 72-year-old retired high-school teacher—not the usual backgrounds for becoming the state’s tax collector and paymaster who helps manage public spending and pensions—the fact that 63-year-old Campbell was the chief financial officer of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Amtrak makes him the most credentialed of the three. Madigan and Girard say they recognize this, and say Campbell would make a fine candidate and comptroller, but both also intend to win their party’s nomination. All three describe their relations on the campaign trail as genial. Of the three, only Cambpell ( and Madigan ( have
campaign web sites.

Campbell says he entered the race because, “I know that Maryland is on the brink of a financial meltdown,” and he thinks he’s got the chops to manage the challenge better than Franchot, who is finishing his first term as comptroller after two decades as a state delegate from Montgomery County. Campbell has put his consulting firm—Atlantic Financial Navigation LLC, which advises large companies and government agencies—on hold while he runs.

“I’m a viable alternative to Franchot, as a better-qualified comptroller,” Campbell says, “and I think I can win. If there was ever a time for me to run, it is now, because four years from now it’ll be too late.”

Campbell speaks of three broad areas in which he’d like to strengthen Maryland’s financial position. First, as comptroller, he would chair the states’ Board of Revenue Estimates, which tells the governor and legislature what they can expect of the state’s revenue sources. Campbell says the board’s projections have been “overly optimistic” by relying on assumptions that aren't guaranteed to pan out, whereas he would guide it to provide more “realistic estimates” so the state can have a surer grip on its finances. Second, the comptroller sits on the board of the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System, which Campbell says is severely under-funded and needs beefing up to ensure it can pay out all promised benefits into the future. Third, Campbell would use the comptroller’s vote on the Board of Public Works to seek immediate reductions in spending, while also nudging the governor and legislature to cut program spending by about 20 percent so the state’s operations can become sustainable without increasing taxes.

Girard says his main reason for running is the state’s failure to fully implement the slot machine gambling law passed by Maryland voters in a 2008 referendum, accusing Franchot, who opposed the plan, of “dragging his feet.” Though the comptroller’s office has no direct role in starting up slots, Girard says he’d “try to put slots on the fast-track” if elected. As for the state’s pension fund—on which he relies, as a retired teacher—he says that in years when the fund sees a high return on its investments he "would vote to distribute maybe 40 percent” of the earnings to pensioners. As someone who has run for office before—for Congress, Baltimore City Council, and delegate in Baltimore’s 43rd District—Girard says he’s intent on trying to make Maryland and Baltimore more bipartisan. “It’s hard being a Republican in the city of Baltimore and the state of  Maryland,” he says, “but voters need to know there’s a loyal opposition, and to hear its views.”

Madigan, a Loyola-Blakefield High School student, says he entered the race because he "felt like what was going on in Annapolis was out of control.” A Tea Party activist, Madigan says that as comptroller he would exert “pressure to cut state spending” and to “increase transparency” in government. He acknowledges, when asked about the skill set the comptroller’s job demands, that “my educational experience is not there,” but adds that “I’m going to ensure that I have an extremely high-level staff”—and dangles the prospect that “I have a couple of people in mind,” but “they will remain nameless right now.” His main asset, he says, is “the personality I’m going to bring to the office. My passion is just going to be so much greater” than his opponents' would be.