For Brown, who is staging a family-style cookout in Largo as the backdrop to his announcement, the challenge will be to pivot from his role as O’Malley’s understudy to a candidate with his own voice and vision, one worthy of being governor.
In his speech, excerpts of which were shared with The Washington Post on Thursday, Brown is expected to claim some credit for accomplishments in the O’Malley administration but also push the theme of “making Maryland better for more Marylanders.”
“It’s not enough to have the best school system in the country unless every child in Maryland, whether they live in Brandywine or Bethesda, gets a world-class education,” the excerpt read. “It’s not enough to have a lower unemployment rate than the national average if we continue to see pockets of poverty and hardship in the same communities that existed back when Dr. King climbed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.”
If successful, Brown would be Maryland’s first African American governor and only the third black candidate to be elected governor in U.S. history. The son of a Jamaican father and Swedish mother, Brown said he is “mindful” of that but said it won’t define his campaign.
“I think Marylanders are looking for leaders who are going to get results,” Brown said in an interview. “It will be more about results than race.”
Still, his ethnicity is viewed as an advantage in a state where African Americans make up a larger share of the population than anywhere outside of the Deep South. In recent elections, black voters have accounted for more than 35 percent of Democratic primary voters in Maryland, according to exit polls.
To win, Brown, a former delegate representing Prince George’s County, would have to make history in another respect: No lieutenant governor in Maryland has been elected governor. In fact, the office has proven a weak launching pad for politicians with grander ambitions since it was created by a constitutional amendment in 1970.
Brown’s odds of making the leap might be better than his predecessors’, several analysts said, but he still faces the burden of defining himself independently of O’Malley, with whom Brown has served since 2007. And not all of O’Malley’s agenda — including a series of tax increases — is popular, even among Democrats.
Brown is “certainly best positioned to end the losing streak, but I think it’s still a wide-open Democratic primary,” said Herbert C. Smith, a professor of political science at McDaniel College.
Brown’s most formidable competitor in the June 2014 Democratic primary, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, has a huge fundraising lead and a more independent identity. As of January, the former state’s attorney in Montgomery County had $5.2 million in the bank — more than three times the cash Brown reported having on hand.