Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Buh Bye, Schaeffer

If you don't live in Maryland you might miss the significance of this, but it now appears, with 94% of precincts reporting, that Peter Franchot has unseated Donald William Schaeffer in the Democratic Party Primary for State Comptroller (basically the State Treasurer).

Why is this important?

Schaeffer is and has long been a Republican in Democrat clothing. He was elected to four terms as Baltimore Mayor and to two terms as Maryland Governor (1987-1995). He supported George H.W. Bush for President in 1992 over his own party's nominee, Bill Clinton. Schaeffer publically feuded with his Democratic successor as Governor, Parris Glendening, and since becoming Comptroller, has supported and aligned himself with the Republican Governor, Bob Erlich.

Progressive Democrats fielded an opponent to Schaeffer four years ago but failed to make much of a dent in Schaeffer's state-wide recognition numbers. But this year, Peter Franchot, a Maryland State Delegate in the lower House of the state legislature, and a self-proclaimed True Democrat (and in some sense the only Democrat in the three-candidate Democratic Primary) has defeated two conservative opponents to win the State's Democratic Party nomination for Comptroller.

While the office might not seem especially important, Franchot's victory is important for a number of reasons. First, compared to four years ago, it sends a signal that progressive Democrats are an increasing force at least in Maryland and are large enough and committed enough to defeat a well-known, entrenched incumbent. So Franchot's victory seems like harbinger of things to come this Fall. Second, whatever the significance of the office, and for progressives the oversight of important public works projects is indeed critical for exanding the economy and providing jobs, the capture of public office promises better government, it also aids the party as it attempts to build up its ranks of leaders, who can help mobilize support for other Democrats across the state and country, and perhaps serve as future congressman and Senators themselves.

So, for a variety of reasons, Franchot's win and Schaeffer's rejection are very good news for progressive Democrats, particularly in Maryland, but across the country.

Buy Bye, Donald. Don't let the doorknob hit you on the way out.

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