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Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown
Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown. File Photo April 1, 2014 (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

Health exchange website problems hang over Brown

LARGO — Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s bid to become Maryland’s next governor has received wide backing from federal, state and local Maryland political leaders, as well as a long list of endorsements from a variety of organizations.

However, as he campaigns down the stretch of the Democratic primary he has faced criticism about his role in leading health care reform in the state after Maryland’s health care exchange website that was so flawed it is being revamped with new technology for the next enrollment period in November. Brown has put the best possible face on it by saying Maryland actually ended up enrolling more than the state’s goal of 260,000 people, due to large numbers Medicaid enrollments. Despite the problems, he says the state worked through challenges to produce meaningful results.

“What I would say is that you need leaders who are going to be successful both in the planning and in the execution, and often in the execution you are going to face challenges and difficulties,” Brown said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

He added that getting the desired result is what’s important. “And in this case the desired result was the most number of Marylanders enrolled through the Affordable Care Act.”

For months, Brown has been making the case he has the best vision for Maryland’s future on health care matters, the economy, education and environmental issues. If he were to become governor, he would make Maryland political history in two ways, by becoming the state’s first black governor and by becoming the first lieutenant governor to win the governorship.

He’s coming off of a legislative session in which lawmakers approved a package of measures to address domestic violence that make it easier to for people to get protective orders and increase penalties for people who commit domestic violence in front of a child.

“I think I’ve been most effective in the area of domestic violence,” Brown said. He has been a leading advocate on the issue in recent years, after his cousin Cathy was murdered by her estranged boyfriend in 2008.

Brown also has offered a plan to help increase jobs in the state. Part of it calls for creating a commission to study tax reform. Unlike his opponents, Attorney General Doug Gansler and Del. Heather Mizeur, Brown is waiting to make specific proposals on tax policies.

“Campaigns are not the best places to do comprehensive tax reform,” Brown said.

Brown pledges to build on record school construction funding that has been approved during Gov. Martin O’Malley’s tenure. Brown wants to get the annual allocation to $500 million by 2018, well above the average of about $340 million a year now. Like his opponents, Brown also wants to expand pre-kindergarten. Brown’s plan calls for making pre-K available to all 4-year-olds by 2018. He also wants to put more emphasis on vocational training.

Brown, a colonel in the U.S. Army reserves, led the O’Malley administration’s efforts to prepare for an influx of Maryland jobs due to military base realignment.

The long string of endorsements from politicians and organizations has prompted Brown’s opponents to describe him as an extension of the status quo at a time when Maryland needs a change of direction. But Brown says the endorsements are more an affirmation of considerable change that has taken place in the last eight years.

“Endorsements are a reflection of the strength of relationships,” Brown said.