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Lierman projected winner in Democratic primary for Md. comptroller

Maryland Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore City) was the projected winner of the Democratic primary for state comptroller on July 19. (Video: The Washington Post)

Maryland Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore City), a civil rights and disability lawyer, was the projected winner of the Democratic primary for state comptroller, according to the Associated Press. She bested Bowie Mayor Tim Adams for the nomination.

Lierman will face Harford County Executive Barry Glassman (R) in the general election, and if she wins — in a state where registered Democrats far outnumber Republicans — she would be Maryland’s first female chief financial officer.

Shortly after midnight Wednesday, Lierman declared victory in a series of tweets.

“I am looking forward to continuing to meet with Marylanders in … every corner of the state. Together, we can reimagine what the Comptroller’s office can do to support families, strengthen public schools, empower small businesses, and build a better Maryland for all,” she said.

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At a watch party in Baltimore earlier in the evening, Lierman said it was a privilege to run opposite Adams, calling him “a thoughtful and dedicated person who wants to serve the state, and I appreciate his desire to be involved in public service.”

Adams has said he will support the winner of the nomination. “Once every vote is counted, we will accept their decision and regardless of the outcome work to ensure that Democrats are elected up and down the ballot in November,” Kevin Harris, a senior adviser to the campaign, said in a statement.

Lierman and Adams spent Tuesday canvassing voters at polling places in a last-minute bid to increase turnout. Lierman campaigned with former senator Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland’s first female U.S. senator.

Under the radar in the best of times, the comptroller’s race was an unknown quantity to many voters, who polls show were largely undecided on the marquee governor’s race weeks before Election Day.

At Carole Highlands Elementary School in Takoma Park, Patrick Femi, 77, said he voted for Adams because he “saw his name constantly” in advertisements. Femi added that he didn’t know much about the comptroller’s duties, which include managing the state’s finances.

Rather than choose between two candidates whose campaigns he didn’t follow, Marc McNeil, a 59-year-old from Frederick, skipped the race altogether on his ballot. “Honestly, I really didn’t know too much about either of them,” he said.

Plenty of voters took advantage of early voting, casting ballots before the Tuesday rush.

Marrell Harden, 59, a retired government employee who cast his ballot early in Anne Arundel County, said he voted for Adams, someone who he said is “not new to politics, but new to statewide politics.”

“I think it’s time for some fresh faces,” Harden said.

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John Wist, 34, from Anne Arundel, voted for Lierman after switching his independent affiliation to the Democratic Party to cast a ballot in Tuesday’s primary. While he praised Adams’s business acumen, he said he appreciated Lierman’s legislative experience. “I think being deep within state finances and understanding that on a different level was a little bit more convincing for me for Lierman.”

The comptroller seat has not been open since 1998. The winner will replace Peter Franchot, who ran for the Democratic nomination for governor this year and who has been comptroller since 2006. The comptroller serves four-year terms and, unlike the governor, is not limited to two terms.

Throughout the campaign, Adams emphasized his business background and executive experience, while Lierman highlighted her legislative expertise and understanding of how government works. Both say they want to make changes to increase competition in large public contracts.

While Lierman has connections among establishment Democrats, Adams entered the race from the private sector.

Both had the financial resources to air TV ads. Adams self-financed his campaign, spending more than $3 million in his first bid for statewide office.

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Adams, 63, is the founder and chief executive of Systems Application & Technologies, a national defense and national security company based in Upper Marlboro with about 700 employees in 23 states and revenue nearing $100 million annually. SA-TECH tests military weapons systems and aircraft.

The primary function of the state comptroller, known as the state’s chief financial officer or accountant, is to collect about $16 billion annually in taxes, including taxes on individual and business income, sales, gasoline, and alcohol and tobacco. The office also handles information technology for the state, paying the state’s bills and employee paychecks. The agency has 1,100 employees and a budget of $110 million.

Lierman, 43, lives in Fells Point, and works at the Baltimore firm Brown Goldstein & Levy. Her father, Terry Lierman, is a former chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party.

In the legislature, she has served for five years on the House Appropriations Committee and is vice chair of the Environment and Transportation Committee; she also sits on the Oversight Committee on Pensions and co-founded the Maryland Transit Caucus.

Lierman supported successful bills in the latest session divesting the pension fund from Russia and requiring the board of trustees of the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System to consider the effect of climate change on investments.

She also led a coalition to create a program of community-based gun violence prevention that, with legislation passed in Congress in late June, is poised to receive federal dollars, a development that she said gives Maryland a head start compared with other states.

Lierman said that if elected comptroller, she would work to minimize single-source contracts, prioritizing Maryland-based companies and investing in minority-owned businesses. She wants to modernize the office of comptroller, performing data analysis to ensure that corporations are paying their fair share in taxes and that families are taking advantage of benefits such as the earned income tax credit. She worked to create a legal division within the comptroller’s office that can write legally binding letters to advise businesses on how certain tax laws apply to them.

She wants to refocus on the comptroller’s 12 field offices to be present in the community, such as holding meetings with church groups and senior centers to talk about financial literacy and tax preparation services, ultimately building more financially resilient communities.

Lierman touted the endorsements of high-profile Maryland Democrats including U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, U.S. Rep. Jamie B. Raskin and Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks.

Ovetta Wiggins, Hau Chu and Gaya Gupta contributed to this report.