Gansler opens office in Prince George’s, questions rival’s commitment to county


Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

In an attempted show of strength on his rival’s home turf, Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Douglas F. Gansler opened a campaign office Saturday in Prince George’s County and argued that his ticket is more committed to the jurisdiction’s vast economic development and educational needs than Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown.

“We are going to be the governor and lieutenant governor for Prince George’s County,” Gansler (D), the state’s attorney general, told a crowd of more than 150 people gathered in a converted warehouse in Forestville to hear from him and his running mate, Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s) at their latest opening of a regional campaign office.

Gansler, a former Montgomery County state’s attorney, also unveiled a list Saturday of 34 current and former municipal officials from Prince George’s who are backing his campaign — including eight officeholders whose names had previously appeared on lists of endorsements released by Brown.

By Sunday morning, The Washington Post was able to independently verify that two of the eight had switched allegiances from Brown to Gansler. One of the eight, however, said he is still backing Brown, and another name was removed from Gansler’s list after his campaign said that it had appeared by mistake.

During the event, both Gansler and Ivey sought to make the case that Brown (D), a former Prince George’s delegate, had not been attuned to the county’s interests during the past seven years that he has served as lieutenant governor under Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).

“If he’d done his job, I wouldn’t be standing here today,” Ivey, the chairwoman of the county’s House delegation in Annapolis, told the crowd. “ I’d be standing next to him.”

“He’s not from Prince George’s County. . . . He’s from Long Island,” Gansler said at one point, referring to Brown’s birthplace of Huntington, N.Y. During a Gansler administration, Gansler said: “We’re going to have a lieutenant governor who cares about Prince George’s County.”

Brown’s campaign — which has rolled out endorsements from close to 70 elected officials from Prince George’s, including six members of the county council — issued statements from several of them Saturday in response to Gansler’s remarks.

“Once again Doug Gansler is making insulting, reckless and irresponsible statements,” said Angela D. Alsobrooks, the Prince George’s state’s attorney, who is backing Brown. “Prince George’s is Anthony’s home, and he has been a true partner.”

Alsobrooks said she is thankful for the O’Malley-Brown administration’s commitment to more school funding and a new hospital in Prince George’s and credited the administration with significantly lowering the crime rate in the county.

Prince George’s, a majority African American county, is home to more registered Democrats than any other jurisdiction in Maryland and is a key battleground in the June primary.

The increasingly bitter Democratic contest also includes Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery). Mizeur also looked to Prince George’s for a running mate, tapping Delman Coates, a pastor, as her lieutenant governor candidate.

During his remarks, Gansler said there are great discrepancies among public schools in Maryland.

“There will be people that stand in front of you and say we have the No. 1 schools in the country,” he said. “If you’re born white and you’re born in a nice Zip code, you get to go to a really good school in Maryland. But if you’re not, there are some rough, rough schools.”

Gansler said that Baltimore has a dismal high school graduation rate and that too many graduates from Prince George’s high schools need remedial courses upon entering college.

Gansler also said that Prince George’s has not seen the kind of economic development the county deserves.

“When people get up in front of you and say, ‘We have one Maryland,’ we do on a map,” Gansler said. “But we have two Marylands: There are those who have it and those who don’t.”

He said there is a great discrepancy in economic development around Metro stops in Prince George’s compared to other counties in the region. “There’s no development around them,” Gansler said of the Prince George’s locations. “There’s no economic development.”

Gansler said that when he was growing up, “You couldn’t shop in a mall in Prince George’s or go to a restaurant with a table cloth in Prince George’s. You had to come to Montgomery County or Anne Arundel County. And it’s not that different now.”

Sen. James C. Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s), a Brown supporter, said he took issue in particular with Gansler’s characterization of his county’s restaurant scene.

“I think I need to invite Doug to the Old Line Bistro in Beltsville or Pasta Plus in Laurel,” Rosapepe said, adding that Brown had been very helpful securing funding for road and rail improvements in the county and an ally for the community around the University of Maryland that he represents.

As he has at other campaign events, Gansler framed the Democratic race for governor as one between change and the status quo — with the election of Brown representing the status quo in a capital where special interests have too much power.

“Everybody who’s got a powerful interest in this status quo . . . and keeping Prince George’s County down is going to be against us, but we’re not going to let that happen,” Gansler said. “We’re going to win.”

Derrick L. Davis (D), a member of the Prince George’s council, said that it was “demeaning” for Gansler to suggest that people like him who have endorsed Brown are trying to keep the county “down.”

“It’s nice of Doug Gansler to finally show up to Prince George’s County in an election year, but his rhetoric is nothing more than empty promises that he has no intention or ability to fulfill,” Davis said, noting a 2006 proposal by Gansler to move the criminal division of the attorney general’s office to Prince George’s or Montgomery.

“We’re still waiting,” Davis said.

The 34 endorsements Gansler released Saturday included an array of local officials from around Prince George’s, including 27 current officeholders.

They include Seat Pleasant Mayor Eugene Grant, who introduced Gansler at Saturday’s event, telling the crowd that Gansler was not beholden to the state’s Democratic establishment but is “beholden to the people of Maryland.”

Of the eight people on Gansler’s list who had previously been announced as Brown supporters, five are the mayor and town council members from Colmar Manor.

However, in an interview Sunday morning, Colmar Manor Mayor Michael Hale said he had been approached by Ivey about switching sides but remains committed to Brown.

A Gansler spokesman said that Walter Ficklin, a Bladensburg council member, was incorrectly included on the list of supporters.

Two on the list said they have switched allegiances.

Robert W. Day Sr., a member of the College Park City Council, said that he backed Brown earlier in the race before Gansler declared his candidacy. Since then, Day said, he has decided to support Gansler because “he has paid more attention to College Park.”

Ivy Thompson, a member of the Mount Rainier City Council, said she originally planned to back Brown but changed her mind after Gansler added Ivey to his ticket. Thompson said she is a supporter of the Prince George’s delegate.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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