Brandon Weigel and Ethan McLeod

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Baltimore Fishbowl’s 2018 Midterm Election live blog

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Image via Wikimedia Commons

After all the months of polls, campaign ads and debates–or in the case of Maryland’s gubernatorial election, a single debate–people across the country finally cast their ballots in today’s midterm elections. Nationally, analysts will be looking to see if voters deliver a blue wave, with candidates like Texas’ Beto O’Rourke and Georgia’s Stacey Abrams tapping into many Americans’ anger and resentment over President Donald Trump.

Knowing there will be no shortage of national coverage on the fate of the Congress, we here at Baltimore Fishbowl will instead focus on some of the races here in Baltimore and across the Old Line State, where polls close at 8 p.m. Here are a few races we’ll be keying on as the results roll in:

Q&A: Comptroller Peter Franchot slams ‘corrupt’ culture of Annapolis, talks booze laws, State Center, school funding and more

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Image via the Comptroller’s Office.

Peter Franchot pulls no punches when discussing his Democratic colleagues in Annapolis. During the late 1980s, in his first years spent representing Takoma Park and Silver Spring in the Maryland House of Delegates, he says he was “ecstatic when someone came and told me 15 minutes before everybody else what I had to vote on and how to vote.”

But since his later years as a veteran legislator in the General Assembly—and increasingly over his past three terms as comptroller of Maryland—he’s grown not just tired, but outright critical, of the mechanics of the State House, in which leadership dictates how members vote if they want to remain in the party’s good graces.

“After 40 years of that, where nobody is sending anything back up the chain of command, it becomes corrupt, and it’s corrupt right now,” he says. His criticism is bipartisan, he claims: “If it were Republicans, it would be the same thing, because it’s just human nature.”

A lifelong Democrat, Franchot was first elected as the state’s chief financial officer in 2006. After serving through two terms with Martin O’Malley and one so far with Gov. Larry Hogan, he’s set be elected for a fourth time next Tuesday, barring a surprise upset from his Republican opponent, Anjali Reed Phukan.

To the chagrin of Democratic Party leaders, Franchot and Hogan became fast friends when Hogan was elected in 2014, bonding over a shared enthusiasm for fiscal conservativism, publicly grilling state employees over contracts and doing battle with Baltimore City and County schools officials over a lack of adequate or functional heating and air conditioning in schools.

Things came to a head this past spring, when Franchot came out campaigning against the two top Democrats in the State House after the legislature voted to strip the Board of Public Works—of which he and Hogan are members, along with Treasurer Nancy Kopp—of its role in school construction- and maintenance-funding decisions.

Lawmakers also killed his championed overhaul of craft brewing regulations for craft brewing, and passed legislation creating a task force to examine whether the comptroller’s office should even maintain any oversight of alcohol policy. He’s still smarting over the fact that Eric Best, an executive with the distributor Bob Hall, LLC, came out against the reform effort in an interview with The Sun and said there were concerns about excessive drinking, only to later release 77-packs of Natural Light in College Park.

“They came after me on the public health issue and then they got caught. Eric Best… got caught with his pants down,” he says. “College Park, it’s the only place they sold it in Maryland, and the only time was homecoming. It’s cheap beer, binge drinking, young people, underage drinking, all of it was kind of embodied by that.”

Ahead of the election, Franchot’s doubled down on his message of contempt for entrenched party leadership. “The insiders always win, and everyone else is left behind,” asserts an ad for Franchot’s campaign that’s been circulating in the Baltimore area recently, painting Annapolis as a cesspool of corruption and backroom deals.

The comptroller, his chief of staff, Len Foxwell, and press secretary, Alan Brody, stopped by Baltimore Fishbowl this week for a nearly hour-long conversation with managing editor Brandon Weigel and senior editor Ethan McLeod about booze regulations, government, federal tax policies, Franchot’s decision not to support fellow Democrat Ben Jealous in the gubernatorial election and more. Here’s an edited transcript of the conversation:

Towson man indicted as part of $364 million Ponzi scheme

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U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert Hur, announcing the indictment. Still via livestream from Fox 45.

A Towson man has been indicted in a Ponzi scheme said to be one of the “largest ever charged in Maryland,” after working with co-conspirators in Texas and Nevada to defraud hundreds of investors of more than $364 million to use for their own personal gain, prosecutors say.

The city is suing the operator of the Charm City Circulator for $20M

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The Charm City Circulator
The Charm City Circulator

Baltimore City is suing Transdev North America, Inc., the operator of the free Charm City Circulator bus service, for breach of contract, arguing they were overcharged tens of millions of dollars, Mayor Catherine Pugh announced Wednesday.

Independent panel finds Suiter committed suicide, questions Kevin Davis’ handling of it all

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From left: Baltimore Police spokesman T.J. Smith, Independent Review Board co-chair Dr. James Coldren, IRB Chair James Stewart and Acting Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle appear at an Aug. 29 press conference to discuss the investigation into Det. Sean Suiter’s death. Photo by Ethan McLeod.

The leaders of the Independent Review Board hired by the Baltimore Police Department to investigate Det. Sean Suiter’s mystifying death last November said today that their findings “have built a compelling case” that Suiter committed suicide the evening of Nov. 15, 2017, at Bennett Place.

Almost equally compelling is the narrative that police officials misled the public about the entire investigation in those first hours and days afterward. Shortly after Suiter was shot, then-Commissioner Kevin Davis told the world the veteran homicide detective was mortally wounded by a “cold, callous killer” while following up on a 2016 triple murder. He said that individual and Suiter had conversed briefly, that the shooter may have been wounded himself in an ensuing struggle and that police were “canvassing doctor’s offices and hospitals,” the report noted.

Iconic leather bar the Baltimore Eagle has closed amid alleged business disputes

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Photo by Brandon Weigel

Baltimore Eagle, the storied leather bar that got a second life in 2017 after an extensive renovation, ceased operations last night, according to a post on the club’s website.

Baltimore Fishbowl’s 2018 Primary Election live blog

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Welcome to Baltimore Fishbowl’s live blog of the primary elections! The day where Marylanders choose their political party’s candidate ahead of the November general election was not without its head-scratching drama, as machines didn’t work and polling places got shuffled around. Oh, and an estimated 80,000 people were affected by a Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) computer glitch that failed to register changes in people’s address or party affiliation; those impacted by the snafu were told to cast provisional ballots.

Polls across the state are closing at 8 p.m., but here in Baltimore, some locations are staying open until 9 p.m. as a result of some of the aforementioned confusion.

We’re going to keep you updated on the latest results and, hopefully, provide some context and analysis as the returns roll in.

2018 Primary Election Day shenanigans: Broken machines, relocated polling places and more

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This morning’s primary election began with the news that 80,000 voters would have to cast provisional ballots after the Maryland State Board of Elections said it did not receive address changes from the Motor Vehicle Administration. That number was an increase from an initial estimate that the glitch would affect 18,700 voters. Yikes.

As with other vote-casting days, some people encountered long lines and other foul-ups, including confusion over the aforementioned provisional ballots. Here’s a roundup of what citizens and candidates are reporting on social media.

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