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The Slots Debate's Other Leading Faces

Comptroller Peter Franchot, above, opposes slots. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. supports them.
Comptroller Peter Franchot, above, opposes slots. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. supports them. (Richard A. Lipski - The Washington Post)
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Monday, September 22, 2008

Comptroller Peter Franchot

In the fight against slots, Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) has cast himself as both a leading opponent and an Annapolis outsider.

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Last week, Franchot took his message to a conference of African Methodist Episcopal ministers at the Greater Mt. Nebo Church in Prince George's County.

The comptroller asked for the group's help in rejecting adding slots in a Nov. 4 measure put on the ballot by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and the Democrat-led General Assembly.

"We see what comes out of Annapolis," Franchot said. "We know we can't trust them."

Comments like those have irked Democratic leaders in Annapolis, where Franchot, a one-time slots supporter, served for 20 years as a delegate representing Montgomery County before he was elected as the state's chief tax collector in 2006.

If anything, the anger of his former colleagues seems to have emboldened Franchot, who says his views on slots have evolved while on the campaign trail.

At Greater Mt. Nebo, he said that many of the Maryland politicians now advocating slots are "the same people who brought you a record tax increase a year ago."

That was a reference to nearly $1.4 billion in new taxes passed in a special session O'Malley called to deal with the state's finances. Adding slots is also envisioned by O'Malley as part of the budget fix.

Franchot argued that the social costs of legalizing slots would surpass their revenue. He also took aim at claims by supporters that education would benefit from slots revenue, dubbing that "the biggest lie."

A November defeat on the issue would undoubtedly energize Franchot to continue an "independent" streak in Annapolis that has extended to other issues besides slots.

Approval, his detractors hope, might rein him in.

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