Gansler tries to move past race comments

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler on Wednesday tried to move past the fallout from his secretly recorded comments about his political opponent's ethnicity.

Gansler hosted an environmental policy discussion on the Eastern Shore, but the gubernatorial candidate was met by television cameras and reporters questioning his remarks that Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown was running for governor on his African American heritage. Gansler opened his meeting by announcing he would not discuss that.


After the hour-long forum on converting excess chicken litter to a renewable energy source, Gansler rebuffed Brown's suggestion he apologize to the voters, saying his remarks were taken out of context. "What would I apologize to the voters for?" he said.

Gansler told supporters in July that fellow Democrat Brown had not offered policy ideas in the 2014 race for governor. "I mean, right now his campaign slogan is, "Vote for me, I want to be the first African-American governor of Maryland," Gansler said, according to a transcript published this week by The Washington Post.


For a second day, reaction to the remarks reverberated through Maryland politics, with both Brown and Gansler hosting separate events in Salisbury that became overshadowed by the dispute.

Brown's campaign had called for an apology from Gansler on Tuesday, but the lieutenant governor said at an event in Salisbury on Wednesday that Gansler owes an apology "maybe to the Maryland voters."

"This campaign ought to be focused on results and record, but perhaps more importantly, on a vision for what a better Maryland looks like," Brown said.

At the same event, Harford County Executive David R. Craig, a Republican running for governor, said, "It's not appropriate to be involved in petty politics to attack someone because of their race, or because of their age," he said. "I'll be the oldest candidate, so is somebody going to attack me for being a senior citizen?"

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who has endorsed Brown, discussed the remarks at her weekly press conference. "To the extent that the attorney general has introduced race in a way that I don't think really belongs in the governor's race, it's disappointing," she said. "Out of the 20 reasons why I support the L.G., you don't get to 'black' in the top 20. There are a lot of reasons to support the lieutenant governor."

Gansler's camp has accused Brown's campaign of "dirty tricks." Brown's campaign has denied involvement in the taping or distribution of Gansler's remarks, which Gansler said were taken out of context.

Nobody "who has read the transcript of what I said has a problem with it. Nobody says I said anything inappropriate, anything inaccurate," Gansler said.

Gansler did not remove a tracker from the Brown campaign who showed up at his environmental policy event with a video camera. Such trackers have previously been asked to leave other Gansler events before they began, according to both campaigns.


"The people of Maryland, I would hope, agree that an election for governor should be about ideas and the record of candidates, and the credibility of candidates and their leadership as candidates, and character as candidates, and their vision for the future," Gansler said.

Gansler described another piece of his vision Wednesday at Salisbury University. He presented seven ideas for making excess chicken waste from the Eastern Shore's poultry industry into a renewable resource.

In 2011, the state approved a low-cost lease for an Arlington company to build an Eastern Shore plant to convert the manure into electricity. Gansler suggested state credits, grants, utility deals and other strategies should be employed to encourage a bigger market for such power. He also suggested letting consumers opt to pay more for energy that they know is helping the Chesapeake Bay by cleanly disposing of a potential pollutant.

Gansler has not formally announced his candidacy for governor, but has held four other policy events this summer as he builds a platform in advance of a September campaign launch. Montgomery County Del. Heather Mizeur is also seeking the Democratic nomination. She has chosen not to comment on the conflict between Gansler and Brown.

Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.