Dual Roles of O'Malley's Running Mate Raise Questions

By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 22, 2006

When Del. Anthony G. Brown stepped to the microphone this week at an event highlighting endorsements of Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley's gubernatorial bid, Brown had little to say about his Democratic running mate.

Instead, the Prince George's County delegate unleashed a broadside against Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., declaring that the Republican had "failed all of Maryland's families" and that "his style has been divisive and downright mean-spirited."

The event underscored what O'Malley gained when he decided to announce Brown's selection in December, well before any Maryland gubernatorial candidate has ever chosen a running mate. The mayor not only added an attack dog to his ticket early on, but he also expanded his campaign's reach into a community critical to his success in the September primary.

His Democratic rival, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, has not named a running mate, and Ehrlich is not expected to announce his choice before the General Assembly session ends in April.

Meanwhile, Brown has been popping up at Democratic clubs, community gatherings and other meetings to tout his ticket, often in Prince George's, where more Democrats reside than in any other Maryland jurisdiction. O'Malley has credited Brown with helping open doors in his home county, and in some cases he appears to have helped nail down endorsements.

At Monday's event, for instance, Del. Joanne C. Benson (D-Prince George's) lavished far more praise on her legislative colleague than on O'Malley, sharing that she still displays a "Welcome Back from Iraq" sign on her lawn from the summer, when Brown returned from a tour of duty as an Army reservist. "I told Anthony Brown that if he decided to run for anything, I'm going to support him," she said to reporters.

Although Brown's selection won near-universal praise from Democrats, the timing of the pick has created some awkward moments during the 90-day legislative session and has opened up Brown, the House majority whip, to questions about whose agenda he is championing.

"I've been very clear with the campaign that campaign scheduling has to be done around my scheduling in Annapolis," Brown said in an interview. "These are obligations that I cannot overlook."

On a recent afternoon, Brown sat with fellow members of the Judiciary Committee to hear testimony about several bills related to sexual offenders.

Testifying before him was Michael E. Busch, the House speaker who handpicked Brown for the majority whip slot, pushing a bill backed by the Democratic leadership. Then came O'Malley, who backs a Baltimore delegation bill calling for more widespread use of ankle bracelets to monitor those on parole.

Asked afterward whether he felt any obligation to champion the O'Malley-backed bill, Brown said, "Absolutely none."

O'Malley paused for a moment when asked the same question and then said he expects any bill that the panel passes ultimately would include components from both pieces of legislation.

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