Supporters of Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown entered the crowded University of Maryland’s Samuel RIGS IV Alumni Center Tuesday night already prepared to celebrate his win in the Democratic primary race for governor.
“We’re ready to party,” declared Marilyn Kresky-Wolff of Potomac, long before the official election results began appearing on the huge television screen supporters had gathered to watch. Brown beat his nearest opponent, Attorney General Doug Gansler, 51 to 24 percent.
Brown and his running mate will face off against Republicans Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., a Cabinet secretary under former Gov. Bob Ehrlich, and attorney Boyd Rutherford in the Nov. 4 general election. The Hogan-Rutherford team won the Republican primary with 43 percent of the vote, defeating three other candidate teams.
Sporting a bright blue Brown-Ullman T-shirt, Jen Brock-Cancellieri of Baltimore couldn’t contain her excitement about Brown’s primary victory. “I think that he has the commitment to the issues I care about like clean air for every Marylander, protecting families from pesticides and investing in renewable energy,” said Jen Brock-Cancellieri, deputy director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.
When the votes were in, a jubilant Brown took the podium as the Democratic nominee, and as he has done throughout his campaign, waxed hopeful about a Maryland that offers great schools for all and quality middle class jobs. He offered few specifics about his plan on the campaign trail, however, and offered no more on election night. He told a cheering crowd: “It’s up to all of us to decide what the future will look like over the next four years.”
Meanwhile, at the Marriot Hotel and Convention Center in North Bethesda, Gansler spoke to a dwindling, but warm audience.
“If today’s voting and turnout shows anything, it is that people are very frustrated in our state,” Gansler told the 100 or so supporters who had gathered inside the hotel’s ballroom. “The middle class is being squeezed by taxes going up and getting less from a government that is supposed to work for them.”
Calling himself a fighter, Gansler conceded that he had lost this bout: “We fell short today, not from a lack of hard work or conviction or dedication. We worked hard, you all worked hard … But tomorrow we wake up, we shake off the dust and we each do what we can to help others build a better life here in Maryland,” he continued. “That’s our mission, that’s our cause and that’s our fight.”
Turning already to that upcoming race in his victory speech, Brown promised that his party would create a better future for all Marylanders, while predicting that Republicans would whittle away the achievements the O’Malley administration made by cutting taxes and public programs.
Brown and running mate Howard County Executive Ken Ulman led in the polls right from the start of the campaign, maintaining their often-double-digit lead throughout the race. Brown campaigned on his record as a member of the O’Malley administration and his intention to bridge the gap between rich and poor, institute universal prekindergarten and create new jobs. Brown often cited health care reform as a major focus of his campaign despite the dismal start of Maryland’s new health-insurance exchange, for which he was the point person.
U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, a Democrat representing Maryland’s 4th District, was a strong Brown supporter right from the start. “I think Anthony Brown has demonstrated the temperament, the integrity and the leadership to move our state forward,” Edwards said.
If victorious — and Maryland has only elected one Republican governor in the past 48 years — Brown will become Maryland’s first African American governor. The fact that Brown is African American and Gansler is Jewish did not appear to have much of an impact on the race, agreed Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, and Karen Barall, Mid-Atlantic director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center.
The JCRC has good relations with both Brown and Gansler, according to Halber, who noted that both men have had “a ton of exposure” and have attended many Jewish events. About 10 years ago, the JCRC took Brown to Israel, Halber recalled, adding that he believed that regardless of whether Brown or Gansler had been victorious, the Jewish community is “well situated. We have friends and allies in both” political camps. Also, Halber said, both men were “predisposed toward helping the Jewish community.”
The JCRC asked all the candidates for governor five questions earlier this year, including what they believe can be done to strengthen business ties between Maryland and Israel. “As governor, one of my first trade visits will be to Israel, in order to further strengthen our trade and business relationships,” Brown responded, adding that the O’Malley-Brown team had increased the state’s annual grant to the Maryland/Israel Development Center from $100,000 to $275,000 currently and invested $20 million in Israel bonds.
In February, Brown attended a meeting with the Orthodox Union and spoke of his vision of universal prekindergarten that included nonpublic schools and the importance of tight security in schools.
On election morning, Ira Ungar, who voted at the Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School in Kemp Mill, said that Brown’s reputation for integrity would be prove to be his biggest selling point as a candidate.
Brown graduated from Harvard University, where he was a member of the Army ROTC. After graduation, he spent five years flying helicopters with the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Division in Europe. He then returned to Harvard law school, where one of his classmates was Barack Obama.
After law school, Brown clerked for Chief Judge Eugene Sullivan of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. He then practiced law before becoming a member of the Maryland House of Delegates in the 25th District.
During his second term as a delegate, Brown was deployed to Baghdad in 2004 for 10 months where he delivered humanitarian assistance, receiving a Bronze Star for his efforts.
He returned to the House of Delegates, where O’Malley, who was mayor of Baltimore at the time, asked him to be his lieutenant governor.
Dmitriy Shapiro and Simone Ellin contributed to this report.