An audio recording of the July 15 meeting — in which Gansler also spoke candidly about his campaign strategy — was provided to The Washington Post by someone not employed by either campaign. Gansler’s campaign did not dispute its authenticity but accused the Brown campaign of illegally recording Gansler’s remarks — which Brown’s aides denied.
“It’s unfortunate that Anthony Brown’s campaign has to stoop to the level of Richard Nixon and send in spies to illegally record a private campaign organizing meeting,” Gansler strategist Doug Thornell said.
Justin Schall, Brown’s campaign manager, quickly fired back, saying: “If I had said these things on tape, I’d want to change the subject, too. The Brown campaign had nothing to do with this. The only one responsible for Gansler’s comments is Doug Gansler.” He called Gansler’s remarks “out of touch with Maryland values.”
The salvos mark the first real tumult in a contest that had been relatively quiet and could show how race is likely to play an important role. With an early primary next year — in June instead of September — the Democratic contest could be the most competitive in years in Maryland, where only one Republican has won the governor’s race in a generation. Brown got off to an early start in May, named a running mate in June and began collecting endorsements. Gansler plans to officially announce his candidacy in September.
The recording is yet another example of a political figure having to explain remarks that he did not expect to be made public. In the 2012 presidential race, GOP nominee Mitt Romney had to defend his “47 percent” comments, which critics said disparaged nearly half the electorate.
During the meeting in Annapolis, Gansler spoke candidly about his views on the role of race in the 2014 campaign, as well as other aspects of the contest he had not discussed publicly before. Advisers said about 25 people attended the meeting, which was described as private.
In the 30-minute recording, Gansler disclosed that he plans to name an African American running mate from Baltimore or Prince George’s County and argued that he is better positioned to win than Brown because no lieutenant governor of Maryland has ever been elected governor. Gansler also played down the significance of several of Brown’s endorsements. At another point, he argued that he could win more of the black vote than Brown in the primary.
African Americans are certain to be a key constituency in next year’s race to replace Gov. Martin O’Malley (D). In recent elections, black voters have accounted for more than 35 percent of Democratic primary voters, according to exit polls.