A photo caption with an Oct. 28 Style article on Anthony Brown, Democratic candidate for Maryland lieutenant governor, incorrectly said that he is the only black contender for statewide office in Maryland. It should have said he is the only black Democrat running for statewide office.
A Demanding Race
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Anthony Brown is many things in addition to being a black man -- Iraq war veteran, Harvard man with two degrees, whip in the Maryland House of Delegates, Prince Georgian. Then came a bright morning last month.
At a unity rally in College Park, Kweisi Mfume took the microphone. "When the Democratic ticket of four nominees for statewide office in 2006 still looks like the one in 1956, we have a problem!" thundered Mfume, who lost the U.S. Senate primary to Rep. Ben Cardin.
One rank below the white men running for governor, senator, attorney general and comptroller is the Democrats' dash of diversity: Anthony Brown, the candidate for lieutenant governor.
Mfume didn't mention Brown, the fifth nominee. "We have a problem!" Mfume repeated.
Is it too much to ask a candidate for lieutenant governor to be the solution?
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The story of Anthony Brown and his shooting-star rise features competing themes. You could label them "The Declining Significance of Race" and "The Enduring Importance of Race." Two ideals in tension. Two realities in coexistence. The unresolved tragedy of America.
Such is the burden of the talented politician of color, battling on a white playing field, whether he is Barack Obama, Harold Ford, Cory Booker, Michael Steele or Anthony Brown. Here is Brown, 44, one Friday evening cutting the ribbon on a campaign field office in Baltimore. This son of a Jamaican father and a Swiss mother has lighter skin than most in the boisterous crowd -- one exception being, of course, the head of the Democratic gubernatorial ticket, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.
Introducing O'Malley, Brown leads the packed roomful of campaign volunteers in chants against incumbent Gov. Robert Ehrlich of "No more years! No more years!" His eyebrows shoot up in delight and furrow in fierceness. His hands sculpt shapes in the air. His hair is clipped almost military-short.
He does not fail to mention that he served nearly a year in Iraq, as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. But he slips that in while making another point.
"I learned a lot of lessons while I was in Iraq," he says. "I learned that no matter where you live, whether you live in Baghdad, whether you live in Brandywine in Prince George's County, we all want the same things for our families. Isn't that right? Quality education, affordable health care, a better way of life for ourselves and our children and our children's children. But what we want most of all, no matter where you live in this world, we want a government whose leadership puts the people first!"
It's a favorite riff that takes various forms on the stump. The point is that all peoples are united in the things that matter most, from Hagerstown to Baltimore to Largo to Salisbury. It's almost as if Brown were suggesting the color of his skin -- not to mention his other identities -- mattered less than the content of his campaign. What a concept.