December 11, 2021
By: Bruce DePuyt
Washington Post reporter Ovetta Wiggins moderates a Committee For Montgomery gubernatorial forum in North Bethesda on Friday. Photo by Bruce DePuyt.
Comptroller Peter Franchot’s gubernatorial campaign insisted on Friday that his decision to pass on a high-profile candidate forum was not part of an orchestrated effort to avoid debates.
A campaign official said he committed several months ago to attend a minority business event taking place in Anne Arundel County being held at the same time as the Committee for Montgomery forum.
“Comptroller Peter Franchot previously committed to speak at the [Maryland Washington Minority Companies Association’s] Minority Business Outreach and Fair, and felt it important to keep that commitment,” the campaign said in a statement. “He looks forward to continuing to connect with Marylanders on the stump and at future candidate forums.”
Franchot was the only Democrat to skip the Committee for Montgomery event, which attracted a crowd of approximately 550 people. It was the fourth forum in a row that he has missed.
He did not participate in the St. Ignatius Catholic Community Town Hall in Baltimore on Nov. 16, the Maryland Democratic Party “Burgers and Brews” Forum on Nov. 22 in Waldorf, the online Agenda for Black Marylanders Forum on Dec. 2, or Friday’s forum in North Bethesda.
“He’s stopped showing up recently,” said candidate Doug Gansler (D). “Maybe it’s a political strategy. Maybe it’s something else. I just don’t know.”
“I think it’s really important to get in front of the people,” said candidate Tom Perez (D). “Voters need to be able to kick the tires and differentiate between candidates.”
Democrat Wes Moore called forums “a chance to share ideas and share values and vision.”
“I prioritize getting around the state and meeting with people,” he said.
The Committee for Montgomery’s annual Legislative Breakfast has been a marquee event for elected officials, business and non-profit executives, and politically minded residents for 30 years.
On Friday, seven Democrats, Montgomery County lawyer Robin Ficker (R), and Libertarian David Lashar discussed transportation, the economy, the criminal justice system and other issues. The forum was moderated by Washington Post reporter Ovetta Wiggins.
Franchot’s most recent forum was the Latino Caucus Gubernatorial Virtual Forum on Nov. 8. He also took part in the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus Forum on Oct. 14, the Montgomery County Renter’s Alliance Forum on Sept. 21, and the Anne Arundel Democratic Central Committee Forum on Oct. 7.
He did an in-depth interview with former state Sen. Bobby Zirkin, part of a series of conversations sponsored by the Maryland State Bar Association, and he has committed to take part in a Q&A with the healthcare workers union SEIU next Tuesday.
Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery), a frequent Franchot critic who has endorsed Moore (D), said Franchot’s absence would not go unnoticed.
“There is an arrogance of name recognition,” she said of the state’s four-term comptroller. “It doesn’t shock me that he played hooky, but he has got to show up and defend his record.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to more accurately describe the SEIU event on Tuesday. The union is interviewing candidates individually; candidates will not appear alongside one another.