State Del. Brooke Lierman leads Bowie Mayor Tim Adams in the Democratic race for comptroller, according to a new survey from Goucher College Poll in partnership with The Baltimore Banner and WYPR.

Of the 403 Democrats who said they were likely to vote, Lierman has 28% support while Adams has 14% support.

But more than half of likely Democratic voters surveyed, 52%, said they are still undecided about one of the state’s most powerful elected positions, leaving the party’s nomination up for grabs.

Lierman is an attorney and represents Baltimore in the Maryland House of Delegates. Adams is the founder and CEO of defense contractor Systems Application and Technologies, Inc. and is near the end of his first term as the mayor of Bowie.

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Maryland’s comptroller not only collects taxes and forecasts revenue, but holds one seat on the state’s three-member Board of Public Works. Along with the governor and the state treasurer, the comptroller oversees a wide range of fiscal responsibilities, including monitoring state spending, managing debt and approving state contracts. Current Comptroller Peter Franchot is running for governor instead of seeking a fifth term, having served the third-longest tenure in state history.

Though both candidates for Democratic comptroller currently hold public office, follow-up interviews revealed poll respondents — both undecided and those who had made up their minds — said they knew very little about the candidates’ qualifications. Many said endorsements, literature and likability will determine their vote.

Waldorf resident Cathy Van Houten said even when she does jump online to research candidates, she’s worried about finding credible information.

“You can’t trust [the candidates’] own websites because they have platitudes, they don’t have specifics,” she told The Banner.

Read the results of the Goucher College poll of Maryland voters

The 63-year-old law firm employee said she understands the comptroller’s crucial role in state business and wants to vote for someone who will keep Maryland financially stable.

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“The comptroller has to warn the legislature and governor if the state is not where it’s supposed to be,” she said.

This year’s comptroller’s race marks a rare chance at a job incumbents have historically held on to. Since 1939, Maryland has had only six men serve in the position. All were white. The longest serving comptroller was Louis L. Goldstein, who died in 1998 while holding the office for nearly 40 years, according to the Maryland State Archives.

If elected, Lierman would be the first female comptroller and Adams would be the first Black comptroller.

Maryland is one of only 13 states that elects its chief financial officer, according to the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers. The majority are appointed by a state official, often the governor.

R. Kinney Poynter, the organization’s executive director, wrote in an email that state financial officers play a role “critical in ensuring the proper accounting and reporting of public funds.”

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“They are also frequently responsible to the public for ensuring transparency of government spending,” Poynter wrote.

Name recognition and high-profile endorsements have counted in Lierman’s favor.

Bethesda resident Dr. Julie Paquin has already cast her absentee ballot for Lierman. The 68-year-old retired pediatric rheumatologist said Lierman’s endorsement from fellow Democrat U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin was enough for her.

“I have great respect for him,” she said.

Paquin admitted she’s more focused on the Montgomery County executive primary and the congressional races. She said: ”I’m not gonna sweat it over the comptroller.”

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Adams’ marketing campaign won him at least two votes.

For Baltimore City’s Patricia Dodson, it was Adams' personality that won her over. She said that after viewing both candidates’ television ads, she chose Adams because of his story of resilience, and “he seemed like a real funny, nice guy.”

On his campaign website, Adams describes his journey from poverty and racial segregation in rural Louisiana to becoming the president and chief executive officer of a multimillion dollar defense contractor.

“[Lierman] might be smart as I don’t know what, but she doesn’t seem personable,” she said. “But Adams is.”

Retired teacher William Christ, a resident of Southwest Baltimore’s Morrell Park neighborhood, said he was impressed that Adams sent a campaign flier to his mailbox.

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“I have not gotten anything from anybody else … ‚” Christ said. “If they’re not going to let me know about themselves, why do I want to vote for them?”

And he admired Adams’ corporate and political experience.

“I just think he can do the job … and I am satisfied with his background,” he said.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face off against Harford County Executive Barry Glassman in November. Glassman is running unopposed in the Republican primary.

All three statewide elected offices are up for grabs this year. Gov. Larry Hogan ends his second and final term as governor in January of 2023, and Attorney General Brian Frosh decided not to run for reelection.

The Goucher College Poll was conducted from June 15-19 via landlines and cellphones, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9% among the likely Democratic voters who were polled.

brenda.wintrode@thebaltimorebanner.com

Read more:

Poll: Maryland Republican primary for governor is a tight race with many voters still undecided

Poll: Top three Democratic candidates for Maryland governor are tied, with many still undecided

Read the results of the Goucher College poll of Maryland voters

Brenda Wintrode covers state government, agencies and politics. Before joining The Baltimore Banner, Wintrode wrote an award winning series of long form investigations for Wisconsin Watch.

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