Mizeur criticizes Brown over foreclosures

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Heather R. Mizeur on Tuesday accused her front-running rival, Lt. Anthony G. Brown, of playing “petty, cynical politics” when he criticized Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler over Maryland’s burgeoning rate of home foreclosures.

At a State House news conference, Mizeur said Brown as well as Gansler -- the other Democrat in the race for governor -- must be held accountable for the state’s foreclosure rate. She said the state had seen a 275
percent increase in foreclosures last year and now ranks No. 2 in the country in that rate.

Mizeur, a Montgomery County delegate, came down harder on Brown, saying his strategy for reducing foreclosures comes down to "blame." She called for passage of her legislation preventing banks from continuing to attempt to collect money from borrowers after a short sale that fails to recover the full amount of a mortgage loan. She suggested that her rivals were not serious about finding solutions to what she called a foreclosure crisis in Maryland.

“If they’re concerned with foreclosures, then let’s do something about it now, not after an election,” she said.

Mizeur’s bill would prohibit banks from requiring the owners of homes going to short sale -- an alternative to foreclosures in which the transaction brings in less than the balance of the loan -- to sign waivers allowing the lenders to seek so-called “deficiency judgments” to make up the difference between the sale price and remaining debt. She said 12 other states have already prohibited such judgments, which can allow banks to seek to collect money from borrowers years after they have lost their homes.

Last week Brown released a video criticizing the $1.5 billion settlement agreement Gansler entered into with several large banks over abusive mortgage practices, saying it had fallen short in homeowners facing
foreclosure. The video faulted Gansler for his claim the settlement helped "turn the foreclosure crisis around."

Mizeur said Brown's statement on the settlement was a "fair criticism" but added that the rise in foreclosures occurred on the lieutenant governor's watch as well. She urged her opponents to "do more than trade barbs in the press" and to get behind her legislation.

Brown campaign manager Justin Schall declined to comment and referred a reporter to the original press release about the video. In it, the lieutenant governor's campaign claims that "the O'Malley-Brown administration has taken significant strides toward providing relief to Maryland homeowners, including 2010 legislation requiring mandatory mediation in foreclosure actions."

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