Tuesday night’s win for Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown in the Democratic gubernatorial primary came down to the factors that time and again have won elections.
Endorsements and money.
In a state that has never elected a sitting lieutenant governor to succeed his or her boss, Brown early on solidified the support of the state’s major Democrats behind him — from Gov. Martin J. O’Malley and House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miler Jr. down into every county around the state. Millions of dollars raised early and often allowed Brown to define himself, and his opponents.
If buzz and social media equalled votes, Del. Heather R. Mizuer would surely have been able to slip past Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and perhaps even Brown.
Gansler billed himself as a centrist Democrat in a primary that typically plays to the extremes of the parties. The two-term attorney general billed himself as pro-business Democrat who would take on special interest. An insider who was on the outside.
But while Gansler was teasing the media with his expected entry into the race last summer, Brown was running — too soon, according to Gansler.
But Brown used the opportunity to begin defining himself and Gansler.
The attorney general helped.
First there was a story about Gansler’s use and treatment of his Maryland State Police detail just as Gansler had barely entered the campaign. The stories of Gansler cajoling troopers to drive faster than the speed limit, inappropriately use lights and sirens to get around traffic and even Gansler himself taking the wheel while his assigned protection rode shotgun, came complete with official state emails.
Welcome to the party, pal.
Then came the photos of the now infamous Delaware senior week party attended by Gansler’s son. Red solo cups and teens packed in, and Gansler stood in the middle of it all, seemingly taking snaps with his iPhone.
Gansler, who had been involved in an anti-teen-drinking campaign, did nothing to end the party. He said at the time he wasn’t even certain what was in the red plastic cups.
But women — moms—an important demographic in any Democratic campaign, were sure.
Herbert C. Smith, a political science professor at McDaniel College, said he knew Gansler was in trouble when he took part in a radio program to discuss the campaign.
“Women kept calling in to talk about that party,” Smith said. “The phones just lit up.”
Gansler’s attempts to strike back and paint Brown as an incompetent manager whose lack of attention to detail cost taxpayers millions in a failed roll-out of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange failed to resonate with voters.
Maybe that was because the hard evidence of any mismanagement still lay buried within redacted public records and closed door meetings by the exchange. General Assembly leaders who, having previously pledged their allegiance to Brown, were now in charge of a legislative oversight committee meant to look into the failed system, had little interest in mounting a vigorous investigation.
A request by that panel to have state auditors look into the exchange was so narrowly tailored that auditors were only allowed to initially request documents previously sought by the media. In the end, auditors were left scratching their heads as they released a report that said those heavily redacted emails and documents left them unable to identify key decision makers.
And as Mizeur, a policy wonk, was releasing position paper after position paper on expanding early education and using legalized, taxed marijuana to pay for it and calling for moratoriums on fracking, Brown was jumping on some of her ideas.
Brown smiled proudly as O’Malley in April signed a bill expanding pre-kindergarten to about 1,600 students. And while Mizeur talked about how she helped save an effort to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, Brown used his connections with O’Malley to get the governor to sign a bill he initially expressed concerns about.
In debates, Brown ignored Mizeur and instead chose to spar with Gansler. Mizeur ignored the bickering. She wanted to talk about policy and ideas and be positive — traits that made her popular as she campaigned around the state.
Donald Norris, professor and chair of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said earlier this year that “people who meet Mizeur like her.”
But he noted that lack of financial resources would ultimately make it difficult for her to meet enough people, to increase her name recognition outside of Montgomery County.
And the Brown machine rolled on to a comfortable victory.