Anthony Brown is embarking on history – not only to become the first African-American to be elected Governor of Maryland but the first lieutenant governor to run the state. And he’s picking up some major endorsements.
“He is uniquely qualified to lead Maryland,” former President Bill Clinton said in a statement. “And I am proud to support him for Governor.”
“He has my full support in his run for Governor,” Governor O’Malley said in his official endorsement speech, “because I want to ensure that we continue delivering better results for Maryland families.”
Fred Mason, the president of Maryland’s largest and most powerful labor union, has also thrown in his support.
“With nearly 300,000 Maryland brothers and sisters in the AFL-CIO, Anthony Brown can count on us to work hard to help him win on Election Day,” Mason said in a statement. His members, he added, were “fired up” to support Brown’s Democratic ticket in November.
The endorsements have formed the backbone of an already impressive gathering of support for Brown’s bid to succeed Martin O’Malley as Maryland’s next governor. Brown also commands the support of the Speaker and Senate President of Maryland’s state legislature, in addition to all seven of the state’s Democratic congressman.
With the enthusiastic support of Maryland’s Democratic establishment, a $7.1 million war chest and 300,000 union boots on the ground, Anthony Brown clearly has a lot to smile about these days.
He leads by double digits in the polls for the Democratic nomination for Governor, which will be held in less than two months on June 24.
On paper at least, Brown faces some stiff competition. Attorney General Doug Gansler also has declared his gubernatorial ambitions, and as a statewide official with millions of dollars in the bank was once expected to make the 2014 gubernatorial primary the fight of Brown’s political life.
He also made it known that he intended to make Brown’s lack of initiative over the failed Maryland health care exchange into a campaign issue that summer.
But Gansler fumbled his attack line in a way he has yet to fully recover from. In a flippant comment that provoked indignation from the attorney general made the grievous political mistake of dismissing Brown’s military background.
“His ads are about how he’s a lawyer in Iraq, and that’s all fine and good, but this is a real job.”
Scrambling to contain the damage, Gansler insisted later on the campaign trail that his remark had been misinterpreted, and was meant to be about Brown’s leadership in office. But the unforced error is emblematic of an unpolished political foe, rather than a candidate with the talent and sure-footedness to successfully derail an establishment favorite.
Delegate Heather Mizeur is also running for the Democratic nod, and she usually polls in the high single digits. But in her bid to become Maryland’s first woman Governor, she has also failed to make much headway against Lieutenant Governor Brown, who as the state’s first black executive would be making history as well.
In a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one, the candidate with a glide path to the Democratic nomination is also the prohibitive favorite to be Maryland’s next Governor. One Republican, Bob Erlich, has won the Maryland Governor’s mansion in the last forty-eight years.
And this raises the question: what kind of Governor can Marylanders expect Anthony Brown to be?
With the firm support of Maryland’s legislative leaders, a Governor Brown would enjoy the same sort of political goodwill granted to his predecessor. Martin O’Malley used his strong Democratic majorities in Annapolis to spearhead liberal legislation, from passing same-sex marriage to the strictest gun control measures in the country.
As he prepares for a possible presidential bid, O’Malley can expect his former right hand man to govern Maryland in his legacy, in the mold of unapologetic liberalism and a bold legislative agenda that overrides—some would say steamrolls—conservative opposition.
It’s a legacy that Brown himself celebrates on the campaign trail. After a legislative session that passed dozens of tax increases, he makes no apologies for his own big government economic ideas, arguing he will continue to focus on ensuring economic prosperity for Marylanders.
And he doesn’t shy away from his efforts on gun control, the likes of which are political kryptonite to Democrats in other parts of the country.
“We’ve passed this nation’s most stringent gun control laws,” he told a cheering crowd at a barbecue last May. “We’ve driven crime down to historic lows.”
Candidates can get away with big government rhapsodies in states like Maryland. And Anthony Brown shows no signs of tacking to the center, though he can easily afford to do so as the presumptive gubernatorial nominee.
And as Democratic kingmakers from Bill Clinton on down to the party chairman of Maryland’s smallest county fall sharply in line to salute him, one thing is clear about the Lieutenant Governor’s future.
The O’Malley torch is being passed. It’s Brown’s party now.
William Dahl is a recent graduate of The College of William and Mary, where he majored in Government and studied abroad in La Plata, Argentina. He has worked for community foundations in Argentina and Miami dedicated to community engagement and prosecution for human rights abuses. A native Virginian, he moved to Baltimore in 2013 to join a financial research firm, where he enjoys being able to write on the side.