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Political Notebook: Lt. Gov. Brown speaks to Thurgood Marshall Democratic Club

As County Executive Ken Ulman spends more time making connections in other parts of the state, other gubernatorial hopefuls are making some connections of their own — here in Howard County.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown visited the county last week, speaking to the Thurgood Marshall Democratic Club's monthly meeting in Elkridge.

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Most of the hour-long conversation Feb. 8 centered around the 2012 legislative session and the bills Brown and Gov.Martin O'Malleyare pushing, many aimed at closing the state's $1 billion projected deficit.

"Probably the most difficult decision we're making that has created the most conversations, discussions arguments and debates is shifting, sharing the teacher pensions with our counties," Brown said.

Though the proposal has drawn a lot of criticism throughout the state, especially from Ulman, no one at the meeting questioned Brown further about teacher pensions — including the five or more school board candidates in attendance.

Brown also noted that the "relief" the O'Malley/Brown administration is proposing to help counties pay for the teacher pension costs has also triggered some debate and controversy. One of those proposals is capping income tax deductions and phasing out exemptions for six-figure earners.

"That's drawn a lot of fire and understandably so," Brown said. "I'm already hearing from fiscal leaders in the House ... that's a non-starter."

The administration has also put its support behind the same-sex marriage bill this year, but Brown said "it is (still) a challenge in Annapolis for us."

Club President Ethel Hill said before Brown arrived the group voted to support the same-sex marriage legislation.

When Brown finished his short spiel, he opened up the floor to questions. Club member and school board candidate Ann De Lacy was the first to speak.

"I'd like to see you become the next governor of Maryland," she said. "I've followed your career. I think you've done a heck of a job. But you've got a lot of obstacles to overcome."

De Lacy asked how she and others could help.

Brown avoided saying whether or not he plans to run for governor.

"I don't believe that my service to the people of Maryland will end when my term as lieutenant governor does," he said. "How I will continue to serve and in what capacity will present itself."

Brown said there is a lot of speculation about who is running for governor in 2014, but noted: "When it comes to campaigns, the only one I'm focusing on right now is the re-election of President Obama."

That statement drew applause from the room of Democrats, and put an end to any more questions about Brown's political future.

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Brown spent the rest of the evening answering questions about transportation funding, the gas tax, the achievement gap and health care disparities.

Columbia Dems endorse

The Columbia Democratic Club met last week to decide which candidates to endorse in the 2012 election.

The club endorsed all the Democratic incumbents: Barack Obama for president, Ben Cardin for U.S. Senate, Dutch Ruppersberger for the District 2 Congressional seat, John Sarbanes for the District 3 Congressional Seat and Elijah Cummings for the District 7 Congressional seat.

"We decided not to endorse school board or judicial candidates, primarily because we are a partisan club," club President Jonathan Branch said in an e-mail. "Those positions are non-partisan. Also our by-laws dictate that we only endorse Democratic candidates."

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