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October 28, 2008

If the slots referendum is winning, why take out Franchot?

Every public poll has shown November's slots referendum is likely to succeed, maybe by a wide margin. Why, then, are the pro-slots people bothering to send around a nasty press release about anti-slots crusader Comptroller Peter Franchot?

Yesterday evening For Maryland For Our Future, the pro-slots ballot committee, issued a news release questioning whether Franchot is saying the same thing in Western Maryland as he is in the Washington suburbs. The e-mail contains a link to a smoking gun YouTube video showing him telling an audience in Allegany County that he isn't morally opposed to gambling, which the slots folks think is a tad at odds with his comments about the "corrosive coalition," "evil forces," etc. of the gambling industry.

The e-mail reads like oppo reasearch from the closing hours of a nasty and hard-fought campaign, replete with links to previous Franchot quotes, legislative records, etc. It's like the sort of thing you might get from the Frank Kratovil or Andy Harris camps as they duke it out over the next week in a neck-and-neck race. Not like the kind of thing you do if you're up 26 points.

So why rock the boat and make the race personal if you don't have to? That may be because the referendum has always been, to some extent, a proxy war between Franchot and Gov. O'Malley, who helped push the referendum through the legislature last year and whose own political fortunes are tied to the success of the vote. Franchot, on the other hand, can win if he wins and win if he loses -- if slots fails, he's a giant killer, but if it passes, he can still look good in the eyes of his liberal base.

Unless, that is, he comes off looking like an opportunist and a hypocrite. That may be why For Maryland For Our Future (a group with strong O'Malley ties) is going after Franchot for his past record of supporting slots (before Bob Ehrlich came on the scene) and other alleged inconsistencies: "By any standard, Franchot has been misleading Maryland voters.  But he’s also misleading the members of his own anti-slots coalition who have accepted him as the public face of their opposition to Question 2…and Franchot owes them an explanation for his misleading and contradictory statements."

Note that the attack is carefully calibrated to alienate Franchot not just from the state's pro-slots voters but also from those who oppose gambling. If the polls are right, they don't need to do that to win on Nov. 4. But they may see an opportunity to weaken a potential rival while they're at it.

Posted by Andy Green at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)


I notice the article didn't mention that Mayor O'Malley was also opposed to slots because it wasn't fair to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. There appears to be little consistency among the elected leadership.

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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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