McCarthy wants a shot at Schaefer

GOP candidate for comptroller says she won't be a placeholder on Ehrlich ticket

Maryland Votes 2006

August 26, 2006|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,sun reporter

Anne M. McCarthy says she didn't give up a job she loved just to be a placeholder on the Republican ticket as candidate for comptroller.

The former dean of the University of Baltimore's Merrick School of Business insists that if she emerges as the winner of the Sep. 12 GOP primary, she will take her fight to incumbent Comptroller William Donald Schaefer or whomever the Democrats nominate. "I'm really running for 2006," she said. "I'm so serious that I stepped down from being dean so I could do it full time."

Those are strong words for a candidate who disclosed this month that she had raised all of $5,160.

But McCarthy, who turns 48 Monday, believes money will not be much of a factor in a low-budget Republican primary where nobody has raised more than $30,000.

Unlike one of her main primary opponents, Montgomery County school board member Stephen N. Abrams, McCarthy said she does not consider herself an "insurance policy" in case Schaefer is defeated by one of his Democratic rivals.

Montgomery County investment professional Mark M. Spradley is also actively seeking the nomination, and Gene Zarwell - the party's 2002 nominee - is also on the GOP ballot.

McCarthy insists she would welcome the chance to run against Schaefer - a former governor and Baltimore mayor, two-term comptroller and all-around Maryland political legend - who is running with the support of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

"I'm not afraid," she said, "I'm certainly not going to be like Steve Abrams and stop campaigning," she said. Abrams has said he would not actively campaign against Schaefer, whom he admires.

McCarthy gives Schaefer credit for running the comptroller's tax-processing duties well, but otherwise isn't quite as avid a fan of the incumbent - especially some of his public pronouncements about the burden on taxpayers of teaching the children of immigrants to speak English. "I'm a second-generation immigrant," she said. "My grandparents came here at the age of 3 speaking no English."

McCarthy grew up in the Chicago area with politics in her blood. Her uncle was U.S. Rep. Edward J. Derwinski, a Polish-American Republican who represented a suburban district for more than 20 years and later became the first U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Though she moved to Maryland only four years ago, McCarthy said she has quickly taken to the state's Republican scene. She said she's been meeting with the party grass-roots for about a year.

Though she is bucking Ehrlich's call for Republicans to give Schaefer a clear field in the general election, she said she is generally supportive of the governor. And while she isn't campaigning on social issues, she said she is "comfortable" with Ehrlich's pro-abortion rights stand and support for stem cell research.

And while McCarthy is an advocate of low taxes, she's far from an absolutist. "I'm not for tax cuts above all else. Life is more complex than that," she said.

However, she said she supports the Board of Public Works' decision this year to cut the state property tax despite predictions of future deficits - an Ehrlich-supported move that Schaefer initially resisted before reversing himself and that his Democratic rivals have criticized as an election-year gimmick.

McCarthy is drawing strong support from some associates familiar with her record at the University of Baltimore.

Stuart Silberg, UB's entrepreneur in residence and a longtime Black & Decker executive, said McCarthy would be well-qualified to serve as the state's chief tax collector and financial officer. He described her as "pragmatic in her approach," rather than ideologically driven.

"I don't think you need a lifetime politician to be the steward of the taxpayer's dollars," he said.

Gilbert A. Holmes, dean of the UB Law School, said McCarthy's candidacy is an example of "one of the best people" refusing to be deterred from seeking public office by the political rough-and-tumble.

"She understands finance, she understands budgets, she understands relationships, she understands commitments, she understands integrity," he said.

McCarthy comes to the race with academic credentials - an MBA from the University of Connecticut and a doctorate in business from Purdue University - and experience running an entrepreneurship program at the University of Colorado.

She said that before moving into academia she was a small-business owner during the 1980s - renovating historic properties in Hartford, Conn.

During that time, she said, her firm participated in government programs designed to help startup enterprises. Among them, she said, was the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, which became a target of conservatives.

"I support programs that help start businesses - minority and nonminority," she said.

Among the ideas McCarthy is bringing to the campaign is a new look at the state employee pension system. She'd like to see a task force convened to explore whether to shift retirement compensation more in the direction of a defined-contribution plan such as a 401(k).

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