Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot said Monday that he will not endorse his party’s nominee for governor, and will likely remain neutral in Ben Jealous’ race against Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
In an interview with WYPR-FM, Franchot said he would be happy to meet with Jealous and offer him information from his agency, but he said there would be no endorsement.
“I think I’m probably going to remain neutral in that race — simply because it’s important for me to get along with whoever is elected,” Franchot said.
A spokeswoman for Jealous had no immediate comment.
Franchot and Hogan have been staunch allies on most issues before the Board of Public Works, the powerful three-member panel on which they both sit. The two have regularly held bipartisan events together, and the governor adopted one of Franchot’s pet causes — starting school after Labor Day — as his own.
Franchot said he considers Hogan a friend.
Jealous and Franchot represent different ideological wings of the Democratic party, even though both claim the anti-establishment mantle and share many views on social issues. Jealous, who won the Democratic primary last week, is a strong progressive on economic issues, while the comptroller has positioned himself as a fiscal conservative.
Without directly referring to Jealous, Franchot said voters want Democrats to offer them something other than the type of expansive social programs Jealous is proposing.
“The don’t want higher taxes, they don’t want higher fees, they don’t want pie-in-the-sky programs that sound great” but are too expensive, Franchot said.
While Franchot’s neutrality could irk many progressive Democrats, he is well-insulated from any wrath they may feel in 2018. He was nominated for a fourth term without opposition, has a formidable campaign treasury and faces a little-known Republican challenger in Anjali Reed Phukan. Four years ago Franchot received more votes than anyone else on the ballot, including Hogan.
During the interview, Franchot defended his party credentials and harshly denounced President Donald J. Trump as “very, very mean.”
“I’m very proud to be a Democrat,” the comptroller said.