“I’m not your candidate if you want the status quo,” Gansler told about 250 supporters as he embarked on a 17-stop tour that will stretch over the coming week. “I have never just gone along to get along.”
Gansler, 50, joins a primary race with two Democrats who have already announced their intentions: Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Del. Heather R. Mizeur (Montgomery).
Brown announced his candidacy in May and named Howard County Executive Ken Ulman as his running mate in June. Ever since, he has been collecting dozens of endorsements from fellow Democrats, including Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is term-limited, and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (Md.), who rarely takes sides in primaries.
Gansler, who began the year with a sizable fundraising advantage, calculated that he would be better served by waiting to officially announce until the fall, when more people were paying attention to the race. The announcement came exactly nine months before Democratic voters are scheduled to choose a nominee in the June primary.
“The entrenched political establishment, the machine, the special interest groups, the Annapolis lobbyists would like to make that choice for you,” said Gansler, who was framed by a pair of oversized red campaign signs. “But it is the people who actually decide who will be the next governor.”
Although he had steadfastly avoided calling himself a candidate before Tuesday, Gansler has been moving around the state for months, holding a series of events in which he has floated policy ideas he would pursue as governor.
In his “Building Our Best Maryland” forums, Gansler has put forward steps to bolster manufacturing, make government more transparent, reduce domestic violence, help seniors, ease the transition of former prisoners back into society and turn chicken waste into an alternate-energy source.
He emphasized his commitment to such proposals Tuesday, and he made several promises in his speech, including reducing what he said is the second-largest minority-achievement gap in the country in public schools. Gansler called that statistic “our biggest moral stain.”
“We will take this on. We will get this done,” Gansler said.
He repeated a call to raise the minimum wage in Maryland from $7.25 to $10 an hour, saying if lawmakers did not act in the next legislative session, it would be his first order of business upon taking office in Annapolis in January 2015.
More broadly, Gansler said job creation would be his “number one priority” as governor.
“Hard-working people feel nickel-and-dimed, and the entrepreneurs we need are not building here in Maryland,” Gansler said.