When running for governor of Maryland, does a Maryland upbringing matter?


Douglas F. Gansler made the formal announcement that he is running for governor of Maryland in Rockville on Tuesday. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)
September 29, 2013

Would Maryland voters prefer a home-grown candidate for governor?

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler certainly seems to think so.

As Gansler (D) formally launched his 2014 gubernatorial bid with a 17-stop announcement tour last week, he mentioned his Maryland roots most everywhere he went.

“I grew up in Maryland. I’m the only candidate in the race who did,” Gansler, a former Montgomery County state’s attorney, said Saturday as his campaign rolled into Annapolis to rally a group of supporters gathered by the capital city’s harbor.

Gansler’s contention is true as far as the Democratic primary goes. The other two major candidates, like so many other Washington-area residents, are transplants — though neither Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) nor Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery) is exactly a newcomer.

The vast majority of Maryland’s governors have been natives, though Parris N. Glendening (D) is a notable exception. Glendening, who served from 1995 to 2003, was born in the Bronx and spent much of his youth in Florida before joining the faculty at the University of Maryland and getting involved in Prince George’s County politics.

Gansler, 51, was born in Summit, N.J. (something he didn’t mention Saturday) but was raised in Maryland starting in 1972, according to his campaign. He attended Chevy Chase Elementary School and Sidwell Friends School in the District before heading off to Yale University for his undergraduate studies and the University of Virginia for his law degree. Gansler’s two sons were also raised in Maryland.

“It’s important to voters, we think, that Doug and his family have deep roots here,” said Gansler spokesman Bob Wheelock. “It’s their home, and I know Doug values the relationships he has built up over all that time with people and families all over the state.”

Justin Schall, Brown’s campaign manager, said a pitch based on one’s length of residency is not likely to resonate with “a real voter who is looking for a serious candidate.”

Brown, 51, was born in Huntington, N.Y., and arrived in Maryland in August 1992, after serving in the Army and graduating from Harvard Law School. He has since served eight years as a state delegate representing Prince George’s County and nearly seven years as Maryland’s lieutenant governor.

Mizeur, 40, was born in Blue Mound, Ill., and attended high school there before heading to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. According to her campaign, in 1994 she moved to the Washington area, where she held a series of jobs on Capitol Hill, and she bought a house in Takoma Park in 2001. Mizeur has since served on the Takoma Park City Council and been a member of the House of Delegates since 2007.

“Heather is a Marylander by choice,” said Mizeur campaign manager Joanna Belanger. “She moved to Takoma Park seeking community and a place to plant roots of her own. . . . It’s more important for the governor to share common values with his or her constituents than a common hometown. Heather is proud of where she was born and raised because it’s where she learned to stand up for working families.”

Among the three major Republican 2014 gubernatorial hopefuls, only Harford County Executive David R. Craig is a native Marylander. He was born in Havre de Grace, where he still lives. Del. Ronald A. George (R-Anne Arundel) was born in Syracuse, N.Y., and businessman Charles Lollar is a native of Toppenish, Wash.

Electing a governor who was born out of state would still be a little unusual in Maryland.

The state biography of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) lists his birthplace as Washington because he was born at Georgetown University Hospital. His family was living in Bethesda at the time, however. O’Malley grew up there and in Rockville before moving to Baltimore for law school. He later became mayor there.

Other Maryland governors and their birthplaces include: Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) , Baltimore; William Donald Schaefer (D), Baltimore; Harry R. Hughes (D) , Easton; Blair Lee (D), Silver Spring; Marvin Mandel (D), Baltimore; Spiro T. Agnew (R), Baltimore; J. Millard Tawes (D), Crisfield; Theodore R. McKeldin (R) , Baltimore; William Preston Lane (D), Hagerstown; and Herbert R. O’Connor (D), Baltimore. Harry W. Nice (R) was born in Washington but raised in Baltimore.

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