ANNAPOLIS — No Maryland lieutenant governor has ever been elected governor of the state, but Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who will formally announce his gubernatorial bid Friday, is hoping to make history by becoming the first.
Brown, a Democrat, said he is running to build on the current administration’s successes in reducing crime, improving education and expanding health care to those in underserved communities.
“We do that by strengthening our economy and creating jobs,” the 51-year-old Brown said this week in an interview. “We have to invest in infrastructure, improve health care and invest in education and training. It’s important to me that Maryland not only be better, but better for more Marylanders.”
If elected, Brown, who has served with Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley since 2007, would also become the state’s first African-American governor.
State Attorney General Doug Gansler, whose base of support is also in the Washington suburbs, may be Brown’s most formidable opponent in the 2014 Democratic primary. Other Democrats possibly looking to succeed O’Malley include Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Baltimore County and state Del. Heather Mizeur of Montgomery County.
“It comes down to a numbers game,” said Todd Eberly, assistant professor of political science and public policy at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. “If you’ve got at least three people running in that Democratic primary, I say the numbers overwhelmingly support Brown. If it’s a two-person race, it could be a tough contest between Brown and Gansler.”
Brown could nab the bulk of the black vote in a three-way race, getting a boost as the candidates split the white vote.
“With Anthony Brown, you have an African-American candidate, with an incredibly impressive record, issue stances that align with African Americans, and a chance to make history. How in the world would you expect African-Americans voters not to rally around the chance to vote for him?” Eberly said.
In January, Gansler, a former Montgomery County state’s attorney, reported he had $5.2 million in his campaign account. Campaign finance reports show that Brown has at least $1.6 million in campaign coffers. Gansler’s deep pockets could make a difference.
“Gansler has run statewide. He has raised tremendous amounts of money, and that war chest makes him a formidable opponent in a two-person race,” Eberly said.
The son of a Jamaican doctor who immigrated to the U.S., Brown received his undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard. He was born in New York and has lived in Maryland for more than 20 years.
Before becoming lieutenant governor, Brown represented Prince George’s County for two terms in the Maryland House of Delegates, rising to the position of majority whip.
Last year, Brown married Karmen Walker, an executive for Comcast, and they live in Prince George’s. Brown is the father of Rebecca, 18, and Jonathan, 12, from a previous marriage and the stepfather of Anthony Walker, 13.
Pluses and minuses running behind O’Malley administration
Although Brown has largely worked in the shadow of O’Malley, who may run for president in 2016, and has mostly avoided controversy, the lieutenant governor has led the administration in implementing the state’s plan for complying with the federal Affordable Care Act.
Earlier this year, he pushed a bill to streamline the process for the private sector to take part in building public roads and buildings, and O’Malley signed the bill last month. Brown has been on the front lines for military families throughout his tenure, championing greater support of mental health services for veterans and steering the state’s involvement in the federal base realignment and closure process, which is estimated to generate as many as 60,000 jobs by 2014.
Brown flew helicopters while serving in the Army, and as a reservist served a 10-month tour of duty during the Iraq war, working to deliver humanitarian assistance. He was awarded a Bronze Star.
Brown has also been outspoken on domestic violence, pushing measures that seek to protect children and families. In August 2008, his cousin was murdered by her estranged boyfriend.
Running on the O’Malley administration’s record, and with its support, has its pluses and minuses.
“Republicans are going to zero in on the O’Malley record. They are going to argue that O’Malley took the state too far to the left and that he raised taxes too much,” Eberly said. “If there’s any sense among Democrats that a message like that would resonate, then nominating the lieutenant governor is just a bad choice.”
Donald F. Norris, chairman of the department of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said Brown’s connections with O’Malley make him the odds-on favorite. O’Malley is to appear with Brown at Friday’s event.
“He’s going to have the governor’s endorsement, and he will have access to the governor’s election organization,” Norris said.
Republicans considering a potential bid for governor include state Delegate Ron George of Anne Arundel County, Harford County Executive David Craig, and Dan Bongino, a former U.S. Secret Service agent who unsuccessfully ran against incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin in November.