Harford County Executive Barry Glassman finds himself frustrated with having to contend with his fellow candidates on the Maryland Republican Party’s statewide ticket.
“My eyes are more focused on policy and operating as a good public servant,” he said. “They clearly don’t represent my values or temperament. That’s probably the most diplomatic way to put it.”
Glassman was nominated as the comptroller candidate to a statewide ticket with 2020 election denier Del. Dan Cox, who’s running for governor, and Confederacy-affiliated candidate Michael Peroutka, who’s the candidate for state attorney general.
As a result, Glassman said, he is rejecting party unity and running a “strong, independent” campaign “for all the taxpayers” — letting his record speak for itself.
“We’ve kind of got to stick to our original plan, and that is just to run an independent campaign talking about our … fiscal conservatism,” he said during an interview Tuesday.
Glassman has worked as a public servant in many capacities: two terms as a member of the Harford County Council, two terms as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, six years in the state Senate and two terms as county executive. He noted that he‘s the “only candidate left out of the six major candidates on the ballot that has run a local government, balanced budgets … and done AAA bond ratings.”
But in what is turning out to be a polarizing election, are more than three decades of experience and reliability enough to excite an electorate that chose Republican candidates who reject traditional party respectability?
Cox, backed by former President Donald Trump, crushed Gov. Larry Hogan’s political protégé, Kelly Schulz, in the July 19 primary election, earning the party’s nomination by 8.5 percentage points.
But Cox’s political career has been rife with controversy.
The one-term delegate turned Republican gubernatorial nominee arranged for buses to take himself and constituents to the Jan. 6, 2021 “Stop the Steal” rally that happened shortly before rioters breached the U.S. Capitol building. As the insurrection wore on, Cox called Vice President Mike Pence “a traitor” on Twitter because Pence refused to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Cox also unsuccessfully sued — and introduced a resolution to impeach — Hogan for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, asserting that his statewide heath restrictions infringed upon the constitutional rights of Marylanders. The lawsuit was dismissed in federal court. Cox’s resolution to impeach Hogan was rejected by members of his own party, and was killed after it was heard by a House committee.
Glassman, who describes himself as a moderate, said he and Cox aren’t cut from the same cloth.
“I am not one to be bombastic, or attack anyone — that’s just not the way I operate. I believe the last election was a valid — it wasn’t stolen,” he said. “I just have a different take on the role as a government official.”
Glassman also holds different priorities than Peroutka, who won the party’s nomination for Maryland’s attorney general. Peroutka attended an April event with Cox and Pennsylvania’s Trump-backed Republican gubernatorial nominee, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, to discuss theories embraced by believers of the QAnon movement.
Peroutka, who formerly belonged to The League of the South — a “Southern Nationalist” organization deemed a hate group with a “Neo-Confederate” ideology by the Southern Poverty Law Center — also has openly supported conspiracy theories surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
During an interview Tuesday, Glassman said he has been fielding party unity questions since the races were called on July 19. His campaign released a statement the day after the election saying he will not be endorsing or supporting other candidates.
“I’ve been a student of Maryland politics for a long time and I know Maryland sort of has a middle temperament,” Glassman said. “That’s why … particularly since the primary we’ve been telling independents, Republicans and Democratic voters that we’re putting them ahead of party unity.”
In Maryland, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1. For any Republican candidate to win, they need to secure support from voters outside of the party.
But how does a moderate Republican separate himself from such an extremist ticket?
While he finds fielding questions about other candidates’ policy stances frustrating, Glassman said it’s nothing new: He has a long history of being criticized by the Republican establishment, which has dubbed him a “RINO,” or “Republican in name only.”
“When I was in the Senate, if a Democrat had a good idea and it made sense, I would vote for it,” Glassman explained. “I didn’t necessarily always vote party line.”
To the county executive, it’s become more challenging to toe those party lines.
“It’s been a fairly controversial couple of years,” said Glassman, noting the difficult balance he’s had to find as a local leader while the state waged its battle against the COVID-19 pandemic — making sure to mention that he believes the vaccine is the best route for recovery.
He also openly opposed the Jan. 6 insurrection, another fragmenting factor in Maryland’s Republican Party.
Glassman said he hopes voters will look at his “track record” of balancing budgets and good fiscal management in Harford County.
The comptroller oversees state income tax collection; imposes state taxes on gasoline, alcohol and tobacco; and has a seat on the three-person Board of Public Works, which approves major state contracts. The position pays $145,500 to $149,500 annually.
Maryland Policy & Politics
Glassman’s view of the comptroller’s role isn’t unlike that of Comptroller Peter Franchot, who will end his 36-year political career at the end of the term after losing the Democratic gubernatorial nomination to Wes Moore.
“I think there are a lot of voters in the middle that are looking for someone that’s just going to kind of look out for the bottom line and be a watchdog for their tax dollar and not necessarily bow to one party or the other,” Glassman said.
Glassman, who ran uncontested in the primary, will face Del. Brooke E. Lierman of Baltimore in the General Election.
A two-term delegate with a history of supporting progressive environmental, education and health care legislation, Lierman has a vision to transform the office of the comptroller into a more hands-on, policy-driven position.
Glassman, who views the role in a “traditionalist” manner, said that he believes that the comptroller is the state’s fiscal officer who should be strong enough to tell other policymakers when they’re spending too much and keeping watch over regulations on small businesses and individual taxpayers.
“I think she clearly has a more partisan view of the office and an activist view of what she believes the office to be,” he said. “I think, ultimately, the voters will have a good choice between experience and qualifications and a traditional view as opposed to a more activist or progressive candidate.”
“And that’s the good thing about our system,” Glassman continued. “The voters throughout the whole system will get a choice.”