The hard-fought campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination this year has provided voters with a difficult decision. All three of the major candidates bring formidable and unique strengths to the contest, and none is without serious flaws. After watching the race closely, conducting extensive interviews with each candidate and considering their stands on the issues, we conclude that Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown is the best choice.
We did not come to this endorsement easily. Douglas F. Gansler has proven himself an able public servant during his long career, first as Montgomery County state's attorney and now as attorney general. During this campaign, he has advanced important ideas about topics that rarely get much attention in campaigns, such as reducing recidivism, increasing government transparency and reforming state procurement law. He has also been tarnished by a series of scandals and gaffes during the campaign. We have less concern about the incidents themselves than about his reactions to them, which have often been flippant or intemperate — for example calling a state trooper who wrote a report critical of him a "henchman" of the O'Malley administration or saying a parent's attitude about teen drinking "has to do with whether you have a boy or a girl." We would like to see more steadiness and discipline in a governor.
Del. Heather Mizeur has run by far the best campaign of any of the candidates from either party — just ask them, and they'll agree. She is passionate and dynamic and speaks from the heart, but she also displays a tremendous depth of knowledge about the issues. She is a true outsider, and her election would fundamentally shake up the State House — probably more even than a Republican governor would. But although we find her a tremendously appealing candidate and share many of her priorities, we find that she consistently goes too far in her positions, particularly in her plan to rush ahead with marijuana legalization rather than waiting to see how such policies play out in Colorado and Washington. She has said she is the governor Maryland is ready for, but we don't think that's quite true.
As for Mr. Brown, we'll address his flaws first. We have been consistently critical of his lack of transparency in discussing his role in Maryland's disastrous health insurance exchange launch. His explanations have been guarded and convoluted; a simple apology and a pledge to learn from the experience would have been much better. Mr. Brown was, officially, Maryland's point-person for health care reform. Had the website been a success, he would have taken credit; thus, he must accept a share of blame for its failure. That said, the buck stops with Gov. Martin O'Malley, not Mr. Brown, whose actual role appears to have been more symbolic than managerial.
On to the good: Mr. Brown is a thoughtful and dedicated public servant, both in Maryland government and in the military, where he has served as an active and reserve Army officer, including a tour in Iraq, since his graduation from Harvard College in 1984. Mr. Brown inherits the legacy of his eight-year partnership with Governor O'Malley, and on the whole that's a good thing. They have made Maryland a stronger and more compassionate place than it was when they took office — our public schools are better, our colleges and universities are more affordable, our environment is cleaner, our streets are safer, more Marylanders are covered by health insurance (the website notwithstanding), and the state's fiscal situation is more stable despite the worst recession in decades.
Mr. Brown's unofficial campaign motto has been that Maryland has made great progress but that there is more to do. It may not be inspiring, but it's true. Maryland doesn't need a radical change in direction, but it does need a new leader who is attuned to today's challenges, and that is Mr. Brown. He vows that the top priority of his administration will be making Maryland the most competitive state for business in the nation. It's a lofty goal, but Maryland needs that kind of focus and determination to diversify its economy and reduce its reliance on the federal government. In addition, Mr. Brown has chosen an exemplary running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, who has proven himself a skilled and visionary leader during his two terms.
Most fundamentally, Maryland Democrats can have faith in the temperament and judgment of Anthony Brown. He has the right priorities and the right experience to realize them. He is our choice in the Democratic primary.