ANNAPOLIS, Maryland – Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown entered the packed Governor’s Reception Room in the Maryland State House and took a seat between Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp for the Board of Public Works meeting on Sept. 17.
Minutes later, he was visibly frustrated by the proceedings as the board members debated the cost of a contract and a bidder’s failure to meet the Minority Business Enterprise goals – a program designed to encourage minority participation in the state procurement process.
“I’m not going to get into a position where I’m making choices between after-school programs and MBE participation. We’re going to do all of that in Maryland,” Brown said, striking his hand on the table.
He was sitting in for Gov. Martin O’Malley who, in the waning days of his governorship, was on a trip to London to speak before a think tank. O’Malley, who is entertaining a presidential run, has been traveling extensively across the country.
Brown’s grasp of a simple budgeting issue made him a formidable figure during a routine state-spending meeting, giving those in attendance a glimpse of a Brown administration.
The 52-year-old father of three is attempting to become the first lieutenant governor to be elected to the state’s highest office.
Despite its deep blue hue, Maryland has been unusually hostile to Democratic lieutenant governors trying to take the next step in public life. It’s a task that eluded Blair Lee III, Melvin Steinberg and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
His presence at the Sept. 17 meeting was in stark contrast to many observers’ perception of his campaign.
“Brown did not run a very spirited campaign in the primary, he did not project a forceful image of himself,” said Matthew Crenson, professor emeritus with the Department of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University.
More recently, during debates, Brown has done better than that, but it may be too late for many voters who have already made up their minds about him, Crenson said.
Brown’s campaign is run with the military precision befitting a man with 30 years of service.
“The military was an environment that brought out the strongest features of my personality and my character traits,” Brown said in a half-hour phone interview with Capital News Service. “I like organization and order.”
Critics say there is perhaps too much organization and order. His campaign manager, Justin Schall, guards the doors with extraordinary efficiency.
“Everything is Justin Schall, he speaks for the lieutenant governor,” said Todd Eberly, assistant professor of political science and public policy at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
Requests to campaign staff for interviews with Brown’s friends and family were not answered.
Maryland Democrats, including House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Senate President Thomas V. ”Mike” Miller Jr., Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, and Attorney General Doug Gansler, were not reachable for comment.
Officials at Huntington (N.Y.) High School, and Harvard Law School, including professor Charles Ogletree, also could not be reached for comments about Brown and his time at those schools.
Capital News Service reached out to retired members of the 3rd Infantry Division through social media but those reached declined to comment.
Eberly added that he has met Brown and that he found him to be an engaging individual who was great with crowds.
“He’s an incredibly accomplished guy,” Eberly said. “Prior to the campaign, no one has ever referred to him as an empty suit.”
“You would like to think that he’s confident enough to speak off the cuff and not be scripted all the time,” said Josh Kurtz, political blogger for Center Maryland.
“I think it’s because they’re afraid he’s going to make mistakes,” Crenson said, adding that Democrats in Maryland are diverse group. “He doesn’t want to appear as a forceful guy because it might whittle away the Democratic advantage in the state.”
Despite these criticisms, most observers still think Brown will win thanks to Maryland’s built-in Democratic advantage.
Recent polls support their predictions, with Brown ahead in single digit margins –between 4 and 9 percent.
An Incredibly Accomplished Guy
Brown is the son of immigrants, a Jamaican father, Roy Brown, and a Swiss mother, Lilly Brown. The Browns had five children, with Anthony, and his twin, Andrew, being the youngest. They grew up in Huntington, New York, where Roy Brown set up a medical practice.
“My father was a doctor and soon after moving to Huntington in the year that I was born he established a medical practice in a very poor neighborhood where I grew up,” Brown said. “His was a life of service and that has shaped me tremendously. It’s what’s prompted me to choose military service and it’s what inspired me to choose public service.”
Brown’s military affiliations began after graduating high school in 1979 with a summer at West Point, included a tour of duty in Iraq in 2004 as a reservist, and ended on July 1 of this year.
He left West Point and transferred to Harvard, where he majored in government.
After completing his undergraduate studies, Brown served active duty flying helicopters in the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division for five years in Europe, according to his campaign website.
When he returned to the U.S. from active duty in 1989 he went back to Harvard, this time for law school. He was there at the same time as another famous alumnus – President Barack Obama.
Excellent recommendations from his professors at Harvard Law landed him a clerkship with Eugene Sullivan, chief justice of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. Sullivan was appointed to the court by President Ronald Reagan.
“He was one of the brightest, most creative and helpful law clerks I ever had,” Sullivan said. “He has a high degree of integrity, the ability to do the right thing. He is an honest man, he is a smart man and he is a creative man. His abilities are unsurpassed.”
Brown was first elected to office in Maryland in 1998, serving in the House of Delegates for two terms, representing the 25th District in Prince George’s County. In 2004, Busch appointed Brown as the majority whip.
Two years later, then-Mayor O’Malley tapped the rising Democratic star as his running mate.
“Anthony established a reputation for delivering results long before he ran with me in 2006, both in the state legislature and in Iraq, as he defended our nation overseas. It was those same qualities, his deep desire to serve and his efforts to make real progress for our state – that led me to select Anthony as my running mate,” O’Malley said in an email statement.
Brown stayed in the Army Reserve his whole political career. It’s a commitment that took him away from Annapolis and his family at least one weekend a month and two weeks of the year. He officially retired July 1.
“No matter how busy I’ve been, I’ve always enjoyed the weekend duty,” Brown said. “It is nice to sort of break up the day-in and day-out of what you do, both in terms of being a family person and on the job.”
Brown has two children from his first marriage, to Patricia Arzuaga, Rebecca, 19, and Jonathan, 14. Brown and Arzuaga adopted Jonathan. The couple divorced in 2009.
Three years later, Brown married Karmen Bailey Walker, the widow of a Prince George’s County police officer, Anthony Walker, who died in a car accident in 2003.
They brought their families together and Brown became step-dad to Karmen’s son, also named Anthony, 14.
Brown and his daughter appeared together in Landover on Thursday, the first day of early voting, as Rebecca cast her first general election vote, for her father.
A post-O’Malley candidate
Brown and his running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, are electioneering in a year when O’Malley’s approval ratings are the lowest in his time in state office. Brown is trying to balance loyalty with attempts to define himself.
“Hogan’s strategy has been to saddle Brown with the entire eight years of the O’Malley administration,” Crenson said, adding that when Hogan talks about slow economic growth, he ignores the rest of the country. “Maryland has actually done better economically than the rest of the country during the recovery.”
“He’s tied to the last eight years. He can’t over-hype the last eight years because it would seem he is unaware of what’s going on,” Eberly said. “If he starts talking about what he would do differently, people would ask why he didn’t speak up.”
“Martin O’Malley and I share fundamentally the same values of schools and the environment and public safety,” Brown said.
”From our administration’s efforts to expand early childhood education to driving our efforts to establish job-creating initiatives like BRAC (U.S. military base consolidations), to fighting to reduce violence against women, Anthony Brown is more than a partner in this administration, he’s a tried-and-true leader.”
The two men have worked closely, but occasional personal differences do crop up.
“Martin O’Malley and I don’t agree on everything, and, you know, one of the things where we fundamentally disagree, you know it’s proven in history that sometimes it’s caused rifts between people – he likes Guinness beer and I like Red Stripe,” Brown said.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve had cultural dispute. After the 2010 election, I remember we had a disagreement about which band would play at our inauguration. Anthony pushed hard to have a reggae band, and of course, I wanted to play with the Saw Doctors,” an Irish rock band, O’Malley said. “Anthony relented when I offered to take the kids from him for the weekend. That’s what our administration is all about – solutions-oriented results.”
More seriously, Brown says that the more often asked and more accurate question isn’t “what’s different,” between him and O’Malley, but “what’s next?”
“One area in which you’ll see a difference is that – Ken Ulman and I are going to declare as our first strategic priority – is going to be to position our business climate as No. 1 in our country.”
Brown has the strength of a powerful Maryland Democratic party behind him.
His running mate, Ulman, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Rep. Donna Edwards, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Baker, O’Malley and President Barack Obama joined Brown Oct. 19 at a rally of about 9,000 supporters at Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School.
Wise, opened in 2006, is one of the county’s flagship public schools and sits next to the even newer Barack Obama Elementary School, which opened in 2010. Its modern buildings and clean facilities subtly highlighted one of Brown’s continued attacks on Hogan – a charge that Hogan plans to cut $450 million in school construction funding.
Obama’s appearance at a rally is unusual in his second mid-term election cycle.
“Other candidates have not wanted the president to come out for them. Maryland is different,” Crenson said. “One of the things (Brown) needs to do is to pump up the African-American electorate. In this state (Obama) is not a handicap.”
There is no shortage of high profile Democrats willing to stump for him. In recent weeks Brown has run a 30-second ad featuring footage of former President Bill Clinton speaking at a primary fundraiser.
Clinton returned Sept. 30 in lieu of his wife, Hillary, days after their daughter, Chelsea, gave birth to her first child.
Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to make it up to Brown on Thursday when she attends an early-vote event at the University of Maryland, College Park.