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Timothy J. Adams (D) made history when he was elected as Bowie’s first Black mayor in 2019. Now he’s looking to make history again as the state’s first Black comptroller – and the first person with paraplegia to ever hold a statewide office in Maryland.
Adams, a wealthy government contractor, will formally announce his candidacy for Maryland comptroller Tuesday, charging that the state’s current tax system puts an undue burden on families and small businesses.
He said the state’s current policies are “geared to protect international corporations and appease special interests,” and pledged to sponsor legislation to take taxpayer subsidies back from businesses that don’t deliver on their promises to the state.
Adams also endorsed combined reporting – a policy meant to close corporation tax loopholes that has repeatedly met roadblocks in the legislature.
“Until we get our fiscal house in order and build a 21st century economy that offers opportunity to all Marylanders, we will not be able to sustain our investments in those priorities that matter to all of us,” Adams said in a news release.
Adams wants to use the comptroller’s seat on the state’s powerful Board of Public Works to boost transparency and ensure that everyone – including minority business owners – gets a fair shot at securing a state contract.
Adams himself is keenly aware of the challenges minority business owners face: He’s the president and CEO of the multimillion-dollar defense contracting firm Systems Application & Technologies – a company that he founded out of the trunk of his car, according to his campaign launch video.
“For all of our talk about so-called ‘government transparency,’ Maryland’s procurement system is still weighted in favor of incumbent vendors and those with the best political connections,” Adams said. “This works out perfectly well for a handful of Annapolis insiders, but not for the taxpayers or for those emerging entrepreneurs who can offer better services at lower costs.
Adams also slammed Maryland’s education system, and said the state is sending students “into buildings and classrooms that are literally falling apart,” and called for oversight of the state’s public school construction program to be returned to the Board of Public Works. That role was taken away by the legislature in a political fight with Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) and outgoing Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) a few years ago.
Accompanying Adams’ announcement is his first campaign advertisement: A two-minute video in which Adams is portrayed by his own son. In the video, entitled “Let’s Roll,” Adams recalls sleeping six to a bed with his siblings as a child in New Orleans – and his early days as a defense contractor.
He also recounts his run for Bowie mayor, and says some had doubts about his candidacy because he is Black and uses a wheelchair.
“I might not be able to walk, but that’s never stopped me from running,” Adams says in the video.
The video was produced by Devine Mulvey Longabaugh – a prominent Washington, D.C.- based Democratic media firm whose clients include Franchot. The firm made the highly-touted “America” ad, using the Simon & Garfunkel song of the same title, for the 2016 presidential campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Adams has largely bankrolled his own campaign so far: He reported $253,129 in his campaign account as of January, including a recent $200,000 contribution of his own money.
That’s still a far cry from Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore City), who launched her own comptroller campaign in December. She reported $588,292 in her campaign account as of Jan. 13.
Whether more Democrats will hop into the comptroller race remains to be seen: Sen. James C. Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s) and Del. Kumar P. Barve (D-Montgomery) both told Maryland Matters that they don’t plan to run, but other potential contenders include Sen. Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery) and Montgomery County Councilmember Tom Hucker (D), although Hucker said in a previous interview that he needs to be “laser-focused” on providing assistance to county residents instead of on the campaign trail.
A Democratic bid for comptroller only recently became feasible with Franchot’s gubernatorial bid. Franchot handily won reelection in 2010, 2014 and 2018 after his election in 2006.