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Democrat Comptroller candidates debate

Rachel Baye

Delegate Brooke Lierman and Bowie Mayor Tim Adams talked about their priorities and what drove them to run for state Comptroller during a virtual debate of the Democratic candidates Tuesday night.

Both candidates said diversifying the state’s business contracts and maintaining a triple-A bond rating are their top priorities. But empowering the people of Maryland is what ultimately drove both to run for the job, open for the first time since 1998.

“It's so essential that our Comptroller be the people's advocate, be an independent voice, ensuring that we're using our dollars to get the best value, that we are ensuring that we're not waiving our minority business enterprise requirements, that we're investing in Maryland-based businesses, and that we're thinking about how to use our dollars to build a more sustainable state and to prepare for climate change,” Lierman said.

Adams said he sees the role as one of an advocate.

“I don't believe the comptroller's job is that of a legislator, but that of being the independent voice for the people,” he said, adding that his extensive business experience – founding and serving as the CEO of the defense contracting company Systems Application & Technologies – has equipped him with the necessary knowledge for the job.

“Equity and Inclusion is not just a term, it's something we have to apply,” Adams said. “I've been fighting that and successful with that across this country, having built other businesses and helping to make sure that everybody gets a fair shot.”

Both candidates expressed hesitation over the proposed Capital Beltway and interstate 270 widening and legalizing marijuana, but they disagreed on whether the Comptroller’s office should oversee the state’s alcohol and tobacco commission.

Lierman supported a controversial measure the General Assembly passed in 2019 stripping regulation of the alcohol and tobacco industry from the Comptroller’s office and creating a separate state Alcohol and Tobacco Commission; Adams said he is interested in merging it back with the Comptroller’s office.

Lierman explained it was not an arbitrary decision to separate the commission from the office, but one based on extensive research.

“We did a study on best practices and regulating the alcohol, and tobacco industries. What that study showed us was that every other state in the country has an independent agency to do tobacco and alcohol regulation. And so that is the model that we moved to through legislation,” Lierman said.

Adams, though, had doubts.

“I don't think that was in the best interests of the people... I think that the new Alcohol Tobacco Commission isn't as transparent as things were within the comptroller's office,” he said.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, a Republican, is running unopposed for his party’s nomination.

Callan Tansill-Suddath is a State House Reporter for WYPR, where she covers the General Assembly.