Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s bid to become Maryland’s next governor—and the first African American to reside in the governor’s mansion in Annapolis–is to get underway May 10 with an announcement at a cookout in Prince George’s County.
The cookout will launch a weekend of campaigning that will take him to Montgomery County, Frederick and Baltimore May 11 on the road to the 2014 election under the theme of “Making Maryland Better for All Marylander,” according to a release by the campaign.
“I’m asking friends and neighbors from across the state to join me, as we build on successes and to take on the next challenges to make Maryland better,” said Brown.
Brown, 51, will be accompanied on his first gubernatorial campaign swing by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who has pledged his support for the man who has been his political partner at the top of the state’s executive leadership since their election in 2006.
“I'm excited to formally launch my campaign to make Maryland better for all Marylanders and that's why I'm inviting families from across our state to join me at Prince George’s Community College to kick it off,” Brown said in a campaign news release.
“Maryland is a great state because of the hard work that we've done to invest in new jobs, education and health care, but we still have a lot of work to do to ensure that no family is left behind.”
Can he win? Towson University political science professor John Bullock said that right now Brown is a front-runner and can win the 2014 gubernatorial election.
“I think it’s a possibility,” said Bullock about Brown’s chances of winning the election. “But I don’t think there’s any one particular front runner in this election.”
Bullock said Brown, as a lieutenant governor, has acquired a decent amount of name recognition around the state, which is an advantage. He said as a sitting governor, O’Malley’s support of Brown will carry weight with many voters during the election.
He said one of Brown’s biggest weaknesses during the election cycle will be his ability to escape O’Malley’s shadow and prove himself as a viable candidate to Marylanders. He also noted fundraising as a potential challenge for Brown, as he will be facing other candidates with more money.
As lieutenant governor, Brown has played a key role in “working to pass the state’s new Public-Private Partnership law that’s estimated to create 4,000 jobs,” leading the O’Malley administration’s efforts to “implement President Obama’s Affordable Care Act which has expanded health care to 365,000 Marylanders” and helping to sustain Maryland’s schools as number one “ in the nation for five straight years while pushing for new investments to strengthen school districts facing tough challenges,” the campaign release said.
He amplified his approach to some likely campaign issues in a recent, pre-announcement interview with the AFRO.
Education, Brown said, is one of the biggest challenges in the state. He said he is committed to closing the academic performance and achievement gap between Blacks and Whites in the state. “There is an achievement gap in this state that runs along racial lines,” he said.
“It’s one thing to say we have the best schools in the nation, but that is not enough unless every child– whether you are educated in Halethorpe or Bethesda– gets a world class education,” Brown added. “I think it starts with early childhood education. I think it’s putting highly qualified teachers in every classroom and we need to provide every student in every community the best technology.”
Performance of the public school system is linked to employment, he said, noting that over the next five years Maryland will have a more than 30 percent increase in living-wage jobs that require a marketable skill set, not just a liberal arts undergraduate degree.
He said the state needs to increase its investments in career technology education to meet the current demand for innovation in the economy. He said initiatives based on local and community hiring will also help to create a better job market for Marylanders and a sustainable future.
Brown also said that a disparity in health care access and delivery affects many Maryland residents who may be uninformed about the reforms available under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
“In order for the president’s health reform to be beneficial… we’ve got to educate them on the benefits,” said Brown, who said the O’Malley administration will soon introduce an initiative to help close the knowledge gap about Obamacare.
“We’ve hired 300 people to go out into the communities, reach out and educate, particularly in communities that have been underserved with health care and health insurance.”
With youth violence deepening into a social and health care issue, Brown said he believes that some of the same post-traumatic stress symptoms experienced by veterans are surfacing domestically as a result of gun violence.
“Maryland has invested at least $5 million in our commitment to veterans programs to address PTSD and traumatic brain injuries that are experienced by our men and women in uniform,” said Brown. “The lessons learned there need to made available to our veteran and non-veteran communities.”
He said that health care providers such as Johns Hopkins Hospital have programs training trauma surgeons for the high-stress environment of treating soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said there must be a two-way relationship in training not just on physical medicine, but mental health services as well.
Brown, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve who served a tour of duty in Iraq, has a stated interest in veterans’ affairs, particularly in the growing number of homeless veterans in Maryland.
With his announcement he becomes the first Democrat to declare his candidacy. He is expected to face a field of announced Democratic candidates that includes Attorney General Douglas M. Gansler, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, Montgomery County Del. Heather Mizeur and Rep. C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Baltimore) in the drive to be the party’s nominee.
Although Brown is the first Democrat candidate to announce, Bullock said Attorney General Doug Gansler, a potential candidate, could be Brown’s biggest competitor in the race.
“Attorney General Gansler also has name recognition and he has a war chest already,” said Bullock.
While considered a front-runner by many political experts, the most recent reports from the Maryland Board of Elections shows Gansler and Ulman ahead of Brown in campaign funds. Gansler cited $5.2 million and Ulman $2.1 million in campaign money as of January 2013. Brown’s campaign reported $1.6 million in campaign funds.
Two Republicans have announced their candidacy of governor. Del. Ronald A. George, whose district includes Anne Arundel County, and Blaine Young, president of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners, will be battling to be the GOP nominee.
The lieutenant governor, who lives in Prince George’s County, represented the county in the state legislature for two terms and was majority whip in the House of Delegates before becoming lieutenant governor.
He is a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School.