Harford County Executive Barry Glassman announced a run for Maryland comptroller Thursday at the Level Volunteer Fire Company firehouse — the place, he said, his career in public service began some three decades earlier, speaking from the same worn green lectern he has used to announce his previous bids for office.
Glassman, a Republican, said the state comptroller’s position played to his strengths as a longtime county leader who emphasized fiscal responsibility. It also fit with his financial bona-fides, he said, noting that Harford County is among 2% of counties in the nation to hold a AAA bond rating from three major rating agencies.
“The next comptroller will need to be tested with governmental experience and someone who has advocated to protect the state’s taxpayers and small businesses,” he said. “After all, the comptroller is the voice of all our taxpaying families and is also their watchdog.”
Longtime Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat, has announced a run for governor, leaving open the comptroller post he first won in 2006.
Franchot has had little trouble maintaining the seat over the years, but his bid for the governor’s mansion has cleared the way for newcomers to the post. Del. Brooke Lierman, of Baltimore, and Bowie Mayor Tim Adams have already declared their candidacies for the job on the Democratic ticket.
Thus far, Glassman is the only Republican to announce a run for comptroller, and nobody has formally filed the paperwork with the Maryland State Board of Elections. He acknowledged that most races in Maryland are uphill for Republicans but said that — as an office above the fray of partisan politics — voters would want a moderate, measured comptroller.
“It really fits the model of what I try to do as far as balancing budgets, being pro growth and being able to be a fiscal conservative,” he said. “You can find ways to make government work better, save money.”
If Franchot had opted to run for comptroller again, Glassman conceded that he probably would not have sought the office.
The comptroller serves as the state’s chief tax collector, and the office has a hand in regulating businesses. The comptroller also sits on the three-member Maryland Board of Public Works, which has final say on state contracts and spending.
One of his priorities, if elected, is to streamline the comptroller’s office, Glassman said, noting he was qualified to do so through his experience in several branches of state and local government. He cited the unemployment debacle Marylanders faced in 2020 and Harford County’s own electronic governmental services as ways that services can be digitally delivered.
Maryland has not had a Republican comptroller since Phillips Lee Goldsborough, who served from 1898 to 1900. Since 1990, only one Republican candidate for comptroller has received more than 40% of the vote in the general election.
Glassman is term-limited as Harford County Executive and cannot run for the position again in 2022. His chief adviser and former Harford County Council President Billy Boniface filed to run for county executive in 2022 last week.
Through his tenure as county executive, Glassman has hewed toward more moderate positions, emphasizing fiscal stability and conservative spending in his administration’s annual budgets.
During the announcement Thursday, he compared his administration to the latest smartphone ― “smaller, faster and with better service.”
“I have shown that with the right balance we can fund education and public safety, and grow economic development through innovation and good government,” Glassman said.
His frugality has landed him in hot water with county educators in the past, who have advocated for increased spending on schools. In fiscal year 2021, through the pandemic, Glassman fully funded Harford County Public Schools’ operating budget request, though capital budgets were cut across the county. Historically, about half of the county’s revenue goes toward the school system.
This coming fiscal year’s proposed $1 billion budget, announced earlier this week, also fully funds the school board’s operating budget request.
According to campaign finance records, Glassman’s campaign had $441,476 on-hand in mid-January.
Months preceding Thursday’s announcement, Glassman said he was weighing the possibility of running for another elected office or not running at all. He previously conceded that a run for governor would be an uphill climb after Gov. Larry Hogan’s departure, limiting options for speculators.
On Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford announced that he would not run for governor in 2022; within hours, Hogan’s Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz became the first major Republican to enter the race. Glassman said his run for comptroller does not leave a hole in state Republican’s roster. He said he was confident there would be plenty of strong contenders aside from him.
Glassman also considered running in the Republican primary for Maryland’s first congressional district against U.S. Rep. Andy Harris — the district’s long-time representative. Harris has become a lightning rod in Washington because of his outspoken support for former president Donald Trump and several votes he has cast. Glassman was particularly critical of Harris following the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol building.
If Harris had kept his pledge to not seek a seventh term in the House, Glassman said he may have run for the congressional seat. The possible redrawing of Maryland’s congressional districts was not a factor in his decision, and the fact state campaign dollars cannot be used for federal campaigns was only a minor consideration.
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National politics have become too divisive for his taste, Glassman said Thursday.
“When you look at GOP congressional primaries nowadays, it is who can get up and be nastier and meaner every day, and divisive,” he said. “And if you know me, you know that is not me. I want to be true to myself and not have to get up every day and be somebody other than who I am.”
Glassman was first elected to the Harford County Council in 1990, representing the northern district, where he served until 1998. In 1999, he was elected to the House of Delegates, where he represented Harford until 2008. In January of that year, Glassman was appointed to the state Senate to replace J. Robert Hooper, who resigned due to health issues. Glassman won a seat in the Senate later that year. His term as a senator lasted six years, when he was first elected County Executive of Harford County in 2014. He won re-election to that post in 2018.
During his tenure as county executive, Glassman was appointed to the Maryland Economic Development Corporation board of directors by Hogan and elected president of the Maryland Association of Counties for 2019, representing MACo on the Kirwan Commission’s Formula Workgroup.
Glassman’s administration has also won several national awards from the National Association of Counties.
A graduate of Havre de Grace High School and Washington College on the Eastern Shore, Glassman has been a lifelong member of the Level Volunteer Fire Company, first signing up when he was 16. Glassman worked for Baltimore Gas & Electric as a claims adjuster before his retirement in 2014, and also breeds and raises sheep on a small farm in Darlington.
The gubernatorial primary election is more than a year away, set for June 28, 2022. The general election is Nov. 8, 2022.