All political candidates think they’re the best one for the job. But in his bid for Maryland governor, Douglas F. Gansler, never one to hold his tongue, has dismissed outright his chief rival for the Democratic nomination, saying in an interview that he“clearly does not have the management experience or a record.”
“It would literally be like taking a season-ticket holder out of the stands at the Orioles or the Nationals, who’s been watching for seven years, and asking them to go out and pitch against the Yankees,” Gansler said of Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown.
In the interview Thursday, Gansler, the state’s attorney general, called Brown an “emperor with no clothes” repeatedly and said that he is being propped up by the state’s Democratic establishment.
When asked if Brown, a Harvard-educated lawyer who represented Prince George’s County in the legislature and is an Iraq War veteran, is qualified to be governor, Gansler said: “He’s a resident of Maryland. He’s old enough to be governor.”
“It’s a democracy,” Gansler said at another point. “Anbody’s allowed to run.”
Brown declined to respond directly, and his campaign referred questions to Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s), a supporter and former legislative colleague.
“To be blunt, this smacks of desperation,” Davis said. “Anthony is a decorated Iraq veteran. He served in leadership in the House of Delegates and, for the past seven years, has been the second highest-ranking official in the state. To suggest that these experiences do not qualify him for governor is preposterous. The people of Maryland deserve a better debate than this.”
Gansler’s comments came in a free-wheeling interview after a chance meeting with a Washington Post reporter in the House of Delegates office building in Annapolis. Gansler was making the rounds after attending the final State of the State address of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).
It was not the first time Gansler has suggested that Brown is a lightweight. Gansler makes a habit of speaking bluntly, which many find refreshing but has sparked controversy in the past.
In August, Gansler found himself tying to explain secretly recorded remarks to campaign volunteers, in which he suggested that Brown was relying on his race to get elected.
“I mean, right now his campaign slogan is, ‘Vote for me. I want to be the first African American governor of Maryland,’ ” Gansler told the group. “That’s a laudable goal, but you need a second sentence: ‘Because here’s what I’ve done, and here’s why I’ve done it.’ ”
In his run for governor, Gansler has cast himself as the ideas candidate, and he has rolled out more policy proposals than anyone else in the race, which includes Del. Heather R. Mizeur (Montgomery), another rival for the Democratic nomination.
But more recently, Gansler’s campaign has been focusing on the “woefully disastrous” rollout of Maryland’s online health insurance exchange. Brown had a leadership role in implementing health-care reform in Maryland.
Asked last week why he is spending so much time talking about the health exchange, Gansler first said: “This is affecting real people. Real people are being denied access to health-care coverage.”
But he acknowledged another reason. “The Affordable Care Act rollout has truly exposed the emperor who has no clothes,” he said. “The one example we have of [Brown’s] management skills has been brought to light.”
Gansler — who boasted of his own “record of getting things done” — said it is not surprising that Brown would be ill-prepared to lead a major initiative.
“The lieutenant governor has never managed any people, more than the four or five people on his staff, and basically has been absent from any governance,” Gansler said.
In Thursday’s interview, Gansler expressed little hope that other state politicians in Annapolis would get to the bottom of what went wrong with the health-care exchange. Among the dozens of fellow Democrats who have endorsed Brown are O’Malley, House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert).
“The entrenched political establishment is all lined up behind the lieutenant governor,” Gansler said. “So no one is going to be willing to look behind the curtain. . . .The emperor-has-no-clothes analogy is quite fitting because the entrenched politicians want a coronation.”