The state's largest teachers union threw its support behind the gubernatorial candidacy of Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown on Saturday, passing over three other candidates who sought its endorsement.
Delegates to the Maryland State Education Association convention in Ocean City voted to ratify the decision of its Endorsement Council, which backed Brown on Friday after hearing presentations from four of the six announced major candidates to succeed Gov. Martin O'Malley. Brown needed the vote of 58 percent of the delegates to win the endorsement and received 71 percent.
In endorsing Brown, the 70,000-member union passed over Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Montgomery County Del. Heather R. Mizeur, both Democrats, and Harford County Executive David R. Craig, a Republican — the other candidates who spoke to the group Friday. Republican Ron George, an Anne Arundel County delegate, and Charles Lollar, a Charles County business executive, did not complete questionnaires and were not invited to speak.
Union President Betty Weller called Brown "the champion our students need to continue to move Maryland's schools forward."
The teachers' support for Brown follows his endorsement by the Service Employees International Union, another force in the state's Democratic politics. Brown has also piled up a big lead in endorsements by fellow elected officials, including O'Malley, U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and the top leaders of the General Assembly.
Brown prevailed in spite of Gansler's promise Friday to partly exempt teachers' retirement pay from taxes — a pledge the lieutenant governor called easy to make but difficult to deliver. In an interview Friday, Brown said that was not a request he had heard from teachers and noted that the issue was not raised on the questionnaire.
Brown received a warm reception Friday in spite of some of the union's objections to actions of the O'Malley-Brown administration, including a shift of some teacher pension costs to the counties — a move other candidates denounced. The lieutenant governor emphasized matters in which the union and the administration have been allies, including a measure making it easier to collect representation fees from nonmembers.