ANNAPOLIS — On a day when the legislature slowly wound down the final hours of the 2018 session, a longtime Democrat and former lawmaker rolled a political grenade into the State House and declared war on the leaders of his own party.
Comptroller Peter Franchot on Monday called for the election-year ouster of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., House Speaker Michael E. Busch and their lieutenants.
“I’m here to reform a party that I love, the Democratic Party, and we’re going to do #DisruptTheMachine and #ForThePeople and we’re going to remind Democrats about the principles and values that they all adhere to,” said Franchot following a union rally focused on defeating Miller in June.
SEIU Local 500 announced Monday a new Super PAC it said would raise money and work to defeat Miller in retaliation for what they said was his blocking of a $15 minimum wage, sexual harassment laws and legislation to allow adjunct college professors to organize and collective bargain.
Franchot vowed to go door-to-door in Miller’s district to unseat the longtime Senate leader.
“So, yes, I’m going to be out there. I’ve got plenty of time … I don’t have an opponent. Funny thing, they certainly tried to get an opponent,” he said, referring to the General Assembly’s Democratic leadership.
Franchot stood in the crowd, shaking hands with some of the more than four-dozen supporters who wore shirts or carried signs sporting the slogan, “Take a Hike Mike (Miller).”
The comptroller suffered a number of stinging losses during the 2018 session, including the defeat of legislation meant to relax laws governing craft brewing in Maryland — Franchot’s top priority — and legislation that strips the Board of Public Works of a role in school construction funding.
Del. Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore and chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the changes to the bill that took power from the three-person board on which Franchot serves was focused solely on the comptroller.
“Mike Miller and his lieutenants, and I’d include Mike Busch and his lieutenants, are working against the people who are here today who are saying, ‘Why are these politicians getting in our way,’” said Franchot, who later stopped in front of reporters for photos with Tommi Makila, Miller’s primary opponent.
Miller seemed unconcerned by Franchot’s attack.
“He’s an elected official, and he’s free to campaign anywhere,” said Miller. “The speaker and I and Del. Maggie McIntosh, we did what we thought was the right thing, and we stand by it. We’re prepared to accept any consequences.”
Miller said Franchot was welcome to come to his district.
“He lost Calvert County by 7,000 votes,” said Miller. “Maybe he can help himself by knocking on doors because he’s obviously not perceived to be welcome in that part of the district.
“Whatever he wants to do in my district is fine,” Miller added.
A spokeswoman for Busch declined to comment on Franchot’s call to oust the House leader but noted that the comptroller was first elected to the House in 1987 with Busch.
Franchot has long irritated his former colleagues in the legislature and has locked horns with Miller almost annually since he was sworn-in as the state’s tax collector in 2007.
In 2012, Franchot called for Miller to resign following an unsuccessful late-session push to legalize a sixth casino in Maryland. The bill went down in defeat but took with it a budget deal. The legislature had to come back twice that spring and summer to complete work on the budget and pass legislation that cleared the way for the MGM National Harbor casino in Prince George’s County.
Also irritating Democrats at times is Franchot’s relationship with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who along with Treasurer Nancy Kopp joins Franchot on the Board of Public Works. Hogan and Franchot have frequently talked of their friendship and boasted of their ability to work together across party lines on issues.
Franchot said he would not be supporting Hogan in the upcoming election despite his open disdain for Miller and Busch.
“I’m a Democrat,” Franchot said. “I support Democrats.”
“I will be out in many Senate and House districts this spring, summer and fall, talking about the need for honest government, for open government, good government,” Franchot added.