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Despite his stinging loss to Republican Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. in 2014, Maryland Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D) is open to making another play for the governor’s mansion in 2022.
“Whatever and however I can put my skills and ability to the highest use on behalf of Marylanders or my neighbors then that’s what I’ll do,” Brown, 57, told Maryland Matters in a recent interview in his Washington, D.C., office.
Right now, Brown stressed that he’s focused on representing Maryland’s 4th District in Congress, which takes in more than half of Prince George’s County and a slice of Anne Arundel County. He took office in January 2017, after Rep. Donna Edwards (D) stepped down to run for retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski’s seat.
But there will be a race to replace the term-limited Hogan in 2022, and Brown isn’t ruling out another run.
“We’ve got an open seat in 2022, and if the good Lord says, ‘Hey, that’s where I need you to be at that time,’ just like the good Lord said in November 2014, ‘I just don’t need you in the State House right now.’ … A few months later, Barbara Mikulski announced her retirement and I was like, ‘OK, well I guess he wants me in Congress.’”
Brown cited a series of factors that he thinks propelled Hogan’s stunning upset victory, like low voter turnout, a lack of excitement among Democrats and soaring GOP enthusiasm.
But some Maryland Democrats have accused Brown of running a lackluster campaign that emphasized his military service but offered few bold policy initiatives or attempts to highlight the record of outgoing Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D), for whom Brown served as lieutenant governor.
Losing a statewide race in deep blue Maryland means “you have Democrats who are voting against you,” Brown conceded.
But “as bizarre as it may sound,” Brown said, he now views his loss as a “great experience” and “a great failure.
“I learned a lot about myself, I learned a lot about Maryland,” he said. Brown called it a “privilege to be the party nominee” and to have gotten support from “hundreds of thousands of Marylanders saying, ‘Yeah, I think that you’re the guy to lead the state.’”
Whether Democrats who feel burned by Brown’s losing gubernatorial bid in 2014 would embrace a repeat candidacy is an open question.
The political climate at the state and national level could change dramatically by 2022, said Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of the newsletter Inside Elections. It’s still unclear at this early stage which Republicans and Democrats might jump into the race to replace Hogan.
“I’m going to guess that Anthony Brown will not be the only Democrat looking at running for governor,” Gonzales said.
Other Democratic possibilities in 2022 include Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks, state Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot, Baltimore County Executive John A. “Johnny O” Olszewski Jr., and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez – and that list could grow.
The national political scene could vary dramatically, depending on whether it’s President Trump’s second term or there’s a new Democratic president in office.
Disappointed with Hogan
Brown hasn’t been thrilled with how Hogan has worked with him and the other Marylanders representing the state on Capitol Hill.
“My biggest disappointment with the governor is that he does not consult his congressional delegation,” Brown said. The fact that “seven out of your eight members of the congressional delegation are Democrats should not be reason not to interact.”
Specifically, Brown pointed to Hogan’s proposal to transfer ownership of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway from the National Park Service to the state.
“Well, Governor, you know, you have to get congressional approval for that. He didn’t know that,” Brown said.
The congressman also pointed to Hogan’s discussions with the Interior Department about transferring federal land in Oxon Cove Park in Prince George’s County to allow the construction of a Washington Redskins stadium.
Again, Hogan didn’t “consult his congressional delegation,” Brown said. “You need congressional approval for that, too. So on a number of issues, I think he just disappointed.”
Hogan informed the Redskins earlier this year that he was withdrawing from efforts to persuade the team to build its next stadium in Oxon Cove, the Washington Post reported in February.
Hogan’s spokesman, Michael Ricci, disputed Brown’s claims that the governor hasn’t been working with Maryland’s representatives on Capitol Hill.
“Governor Hogan works closely with our congressional delegation on several issues, including funding for the Chesapeake Bay and transit projects such as the Purple Line to Prince George’s County,” Ricci said.
“For his part, Congressman Brown didn’t attend our last meeting about fixing the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, and hasn’t proposed any kind of plan to address the region’s traffic problems. The congressman has gone Washington – falling back on partisan complaints instead of focusing on getting things done.”
‘I now know where most of the bathrooms are’
For now, Brown said, his goal is to “successfully complete this term of Congress and win re-election in 2020.”
He’s a sophomore in Congress now, having spent his first term in a House controlled by the GOP.
“I now know where most of the bathrooms are, the exits and the committee chairs,” he joked. “It’s certainly more enjoyable and just a little less frustrating being in the majority.”
The Iraq War veteran cites his work on the Armed Services Committee as a key focus; he also serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure, Natural Resources and Ethics committees.
Brown rarely votes against his party on the House floor. So far this year, he’s broken with Democrats just twice (0.5% of the time), according to an analysis by ProPublica.
He welcomed House Democrats’ efforts to push sweeping, symbolic bills on issues like health care, voting rights and gun regulations.
“It’s sad that a lot of that will sit idle in the Senate and probably never see the light of day, but we’re doing our job,” he said. And Brown sees them as more than messaging bills: “I think it’s laying the foundation for the debate in 2020.”
Unlike some of his colleagues, Brown hasn’t been at the center of the impeachment battle playing out on Capitol Hill.
Of Maryland’s eight House members, Judiciary Committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D) is the only one who has publicly called for the launch of an impeachment inquiry.
Brown indicated that he sees an impeachment inquiry as likely, although he hasn’t yet joined the dozens of House Democrats (and one Republican) already pushing for impeachment proceedings.
“I support whatever report comes out of the Judiciary Committee,” Brown said. “They’re spending a lot of time on this and thank God for my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee.”
The committee could determine, “Hey look, we’ve got nothing here,” or, “Hey, we’re actually ready to actually do a resolution of impeachment now.” But Brown doubts they’ll come to either of those conclusions. So launching impeachment proceedings “is probably where we’re going to end up, who knows when?”
While some Democrats and voters are wary about impeachment discussions overshadowing policy work, Brown thinks it’s primarily a distraction for the media, not for members of Congress.
Still, he noted, there is a limited bandwidth of how much Congress can handle, and impeachment proceedings would tie up more of that bandwidth.
Brown, who served in the House of Delegates for eight years, thinks Capitol Hill lawmakers could learn a few things from Maryland.
“We get more done in Annapolis – in the state capital – in 90 days than Congress gets done in a two-year term, we really do.
“There’s a sense of urgency there, there’s a constitutional requirement to balance the budget every year. And it’s not as partisan of an environment.”