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Senator accuses Franchot of promoting West Virginia

 Comptroller Peter Franchot proudly describes himself as Maryland's chief fiscal officer, but a senior state senator is accusing him of acting against the state's interests and promoting West Virginia's in the fight over expanded gambling.

Sen. James "Ed" DeGrange Sr. of Anne Arundel County sent a letter to his fellow Democrat Friday in which he chided the comptroller for his appearance in ads financed by Penn National Gaming to fight Question 7 on the Nov. 6 ballot. A yes vote could clear the way for a casino at National Harbor in Prince George's County, which Penn National sees as a threat to its casino in Charles Town, W. Va.

In unusually harsh terms, DeGrange calls the Penn national ads "deceitful" and charges that Franchot "contributed to the deceit."

DeGrange, a member of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, pointed to Franchot's statement in a Penn National-financed ad that "not one additional dime will go to Maryland's public schools as a result of Question 7."

"Your statement is false," De Grange wrote. "Question 7 will significantly benefit Maryland public schools."

DeGrange voted against the gambling expansion bill that put Question 7 on the ballot -- largely because he represents the district that includes the Maryland Live Casino at Arundel Mills. But he said that as a budget committee member, he knows that it will generate money for education.

"Your false statement, run on Penn National ads, only serve the purpose of hurting Maryland taxpayers and protecting Charles Town," DeGrange wrote. "Your actions against the state of Maryland are totally outrageous. We are all aware of your ambition to be governor, but with your participation in these ads, it is confusing to me which state -- Maryland or in West Virginia -- that you are campaigning."

It sounds as if an endorsement is unlikely.

Len N. Foxwell, Franchot's chief of staff, said the Comptroller's Office couldn't respond specifically because it had not yet seen the letter.

"I would say it's not unusual for blood pressures to rise and for temperatures to run a little hot in the closing days of a hard-fought campaign," Foxwell said. He added that Franchot respects DeGrange but stands by his position that the added casino revenue would not add to education spending.

"This is nothing more than a taxpayer giveaway to wealthy out-of-state special interests," Foxwell said.

"The Comptroller's Office will be responding to Senator DeGrange in due time," Foxwell said.

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