- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 7, 2012

They may not agree on casinos, tax rates or debt ceilings, but at last week’s Board of Public Works meeting, Gov. Martin O’Malley and Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot found common ground.

The two Democrats spend many meetings of the contract-approving board sparring about the best ways to spend the state’s money. And though both are in the same party, their viewpoints on several key matters of fiscal policy often don’t match up.

Mr. O’Malley opened the meeting by congratulating the American League Baltimore Orioles on their berth in baseball’s postseason. And Mr. Franchot chimed right in, citing a news story about how D.C. politicians forgot their partisan differences to root for the National League division champion Washington Nationals.

“I’m delighted the Orioles have brought O’Malley and Franchot together, too,” Mr. Franchot said.

The future’s so bright?

Maryland’s comptroller isn’t just a baseball fan. He’s also the board’s resident fashionista.

About halfway through the meeting, he picked up a pair of dark sunglasses from the table and put them on. Peter V.R. Franchot explained he’d had LASIK eye surgery a day earlier and couldn’t look directly at people who were speaking to the board.

“My apologies. This is not a prank,” Mr. Franchot said, putting on the sunglasses and smiling.

This isn’t Mr. Franchot’s first health-related fashion statement at a Board of Public Works meeting. He also hasn’t worn a necktie to a meeting since springtime after an elbow injury.

At this rate, Mr. Franchot’s blazer could be replaced by a leather jacket as temperatures continue to get cooler.

Literal economic strength

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley likes to take the occasional potshot at neighboring Virginia and Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, but he’s now threatening to literally flex his muscles on behalf of the Free State.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, upped the ante during a radio interview last week with WTOP, where he discussed Maryland politics and accused Mr. McDonnell of opposing tax increases for the rich, using “gimmicks” to create budget surpluses and supporting a new Virginia voter ID law that he said amounts to voter suppression.

When radio host Mark Segraves asked Mr. O’Malley whether he would return for a radio debate with Mr. McDonnell leading up to Election Day, the Maryland governor obliged and offered an additional challenge.

“We can have a discussion about how we can work together to create jobs and opportunity now,” he said. “And it can be followed immediately by a pushup contest.”

Mr. O’Malley and Mr. McDonnell have emerged during their terms as national figures, leading their respective Democratic and Republican governors associations, and the two often engage in some playful debate and needling of one another.

But the McDonnell camp was all business when asked by WTOP for a response. McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin fired off a blistering email assailing Maryland for its recent tax increases and fostering what many Republicans consider an unfriendly climate for business.

He also noted that Mr. McDonnell probably won’t have time for a debate — or pushups — anytime soon.

“Governors have their own, more gubernatorial version of a pushup contest,” Mr. Martin said. “It’s called the state unemployment rates. And Virginia wins.”

Already a lame duck?

It’s hard to snap back from being a lame-duck mayor to a normal midterm leader in about 60 minutes flat. But Mayor Vincent C. Gray pulled it off on Friday.

To explain, reporters perked their ears — if not suspicions — after a WUSA-TV reporter said on Twitter that an unnamed source, a former adviser to Mr. Gray, knew that the mayor would not seek a second term and would support a new candidate.

Whaaa? City hall reporters dropped what they were doing, camped outside the John A. Wilson Building or greeted Mr. Gray at a public event at Trinity College to ask him about the tweeted report, although the mayor’s spokesman already said Mr. Gray “has made no such decision” about whether he will run again.

Mr. Gray has faced intense scrutiny over a federal probe into activities during his 2010 campaign. Three of his campaign aides have pleaded guilty to either paying a minor mayoral candidate to verbally attack then-incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty or to managing straw donations and $650,000 in undocumented campaign funds, prompting three D.C. Council members to call for his resignation.

Yet Mr. Gray says he is focused on running the city. Even if that weren’t the case, it’s not a good idea to tell someone you plan on having zero political clout in a term that runs through 2014.

According to numerous accounts, Mr. Gray was none too pleased to see a bevy of reporters at his Trinity appearance. He called the initial report “irresponsible” and bemoaned the tenor of today’s news cycles.

The reporter who set off the frenzy, Bruce Johnson, got the last word in with this cryptic — or maybe prophetic — tweet: “Stay tuned.”

David Hill and Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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