The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The Post endorses Brooke Lierman in Democratic primary for Maryland comptroller

Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore City) in Baltimore in December 2016. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)
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In Maryland, two highly regarded Democrats are vying to become their party’s nominee for state comptroller, a job that oversees critical services including tax collection and revenue estimates and also comes with a seat on the powerful Board of Public Works, which vets key public contracts. The July 19 primary pits Del. Brooke E. Lierman against Bowie Mayor Tim Adams to run in the first open-seat contest for the position in more than 20 years.

Our choice is Ms. Lierman, whose diligent, detail-oriented work as a legislator in Annapolis and as a civic activist in Baltimore, which she represents, has earned her respect as a serious, substantive candidate.

Both are competent and intelligent. Our preference for Ms. Lierman is grounded in the fact that her no-nonsense, nose-to-the-grindstone legislative work has given her a much deeper familiarity with the state’s challenges, finances and the comptroller’s office, as well as relationships with an array of lawmakers and others with whom she would need to work as comptroller. When she discusses the challenges that the comptroller’s office faces, she talks in concrete specifics. When Mr. Adams discusses them, he does not get beyond platitudes.

The winner of the primary will face Republican Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, who has no primary opponent, in the November general election.

Ms. Lierman, elected to the House of Delegates eight years ago, has been an extraordinarily proactive lawmaker. She has championed bills to shield children who are sexually trafficked from being prosecuted for prostitution; empower college athletes, often exploited, by giving them to the right to unionize and bargain over health, safety and compensation; and, during the pandemic, prioritize the goal of universal, affordable broadband internet service. She has also taken leading roles to enact measures expanding transit, fair housing and gun violence prevention.

Ms. Lierman and Mr. Adams do not differ markedly on their overall visions for the comptroller’s office, whose roughly 1,100 employees work in 12 offices around the state. She would focus on easing procedures for low-income individuals to claim tax credits. He would seek to close loopholes that enable some corporations to evade taxes. Both want tighter procedures to encourage more competition for state contracts and more muscular rules to help minority firms vie for public contracts. Each understands the primacy of safeguarding Maryland’s coveted AAA bond rating, which saves taxpayers money when the state borrows to finance major projects.

Disappointingly, neither would seem likely to advance term-limited Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s goal of expanding the Beltway and Interstate 270 with toll roads built with a public-private partnership — the main long-term means of preventing terrible traffic on the Mid-Atlantic’s most congested highways from getting dramatically worse. With a seat on the Board of Public Works, they could effectively veto the plan.

Mr. Adams founded and runs a successful defense contracting firm and is the first African American elected as mayor of Bowie, a city of 58,000. He is a resourceful executive and, having been born into poverty in rural Louisiana, has a compelling personal story. Now wealthy, he says he has spent $2 million, so far, on his campaign. Still, Ms. Lierman’s breadth of expertise and command of policy on relevant issues make her the better choice.