Buzz Over Brown's Shot at U.S. Cabinet Post No Surprise to O'Malley

By Maryland Notebook
Sunday, November 23, 2008; C04

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley yesterday acknowledged speculation that Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) is under consideration for a Cabinet post in the Obama administration, saying the former Prince George's delegate has been "a tremendous partner to me in guiding our state forward."

Brown's name has surfaced in several news reports as a possible secretary of veterans affairs, including an account Friday in the Navy Times. That publication said Brown's name was "hotly circulating" among advisers to President-elect Barack Obama.

"Given his talents, his military service, and his abilities, it is natural that people would speculate about the possibility of the Lieutenant Governor being Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the Obama Administration," O'Malley (D) said in a statement issued yesterday morning.

Brown, 47, is a colonel in the Army Reserve and an Iraq war veteran. He was a classmate of Obama's at Harvard Law School but was an early supporter of the presidential bid of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Brown is already playing a role in Obama's transition as co-chairman of a group reviewing the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Other names reportedly under consideration for the secretary's job are former Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.), 67, a former head of Veterans Affairs in the Carter administration and Vietnam veteran who lost both legs and an arm in that war, and Tammy Duckworth, 41, an Iraq war veteran who lost both legs when her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Duckworth is director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.

Brown and a spokesman have deflected questions about his prospects as secretary in recent days, saying he is focused on his work as lieutenant governor and for the Obama transition.

-- John Wagner

Teachers Group Fires Off String of Funding Ads

With a session of budget cuts looming in the Maryland General Assembly, the state's leading teachers lobby sought last week to fire a preemptive strike through a blitz of television and Web ads.

In messages targeted at lawmakers, the Maryland State Teachers Association argued that the state "can't turn the clock back" on education funding.

Daniel Kaufman, a spokesman for the association, said the group spent "hundreds of thousands" of dollars on the week-long ad run and might put others on the air.

"Our No. 1 goal was to be heard," Kaufman said. "We really wanted to get the message out there that we're concerned about the budget situation. We don't want to damage the long-term growth of student achievement to deal with a short-term crisis."

State funding of public schools has swelled in recent years after the landmark 2002 Thornton law, which sought to ensure adequate funding for all Maryland jurisdictions regardless of wealth. Planned increases were curtailed somewhat during a special legislative session last year.

The teachers association is seeking to stave off further reductions, as well as other proposals that have been floated, including shifting teacher pension costs to the counties.

Web ads, which were placed on washingtonpost.com, among other sites, direct visitors to another site from which they can e-mail to their legislators.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), who will propose a funding level for education in January, before lawmakers can alter the budget, has not been a target of the campaign.

Kaufman said his group has had conversations with the governor's office.

-- John Wagner

Gay Rights Group Names New Executive Director

Equality Maryland, the state's largest gay rights group, will resume its quest for marriage equality in Annapolis in January with a new executive director at the helm.

Kate Runyon succeeds Dan Furmansky, who is leaving to pursue consulting and writing projects. Runyon was interim director of the Michigan-based Triangle Foundation. She has extensive experience in leadership positions with faith groups, which are viewed by gay rights advocates in Maryland as a crucial constituency in building support for a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.

The bill did not reach the floor of the House or Senate in the General Assembly's 2007 session, although the legislature passed and Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) signed two laws giving same-sex couples rights to joint property ownership and medical decision-making. Advocates are steeling themselves for another fight next year.

"We're not going to stop asking for equal protection under the law," Furmansky said. Among the strategies advocates plan to use to sway lawmakers will be real stories of the hardships of life without a marriage license so lawmakers and their constituents "understand the tangibles," he said.

-- Lisa Rein

Glendening's Son Rises At Governors Association

Raymond Glendening, the son of former Maryland governor Parris N. Glendening (D), has been named national political director of the Democratic Governors Association, an organization that promotes the candidacies of the party's gubernatorial candidates.

The younger Glendening, a Maryland resident, has served as the group's deputy political director for the past year.

"The 38 gubernatorial races in 2009 and 2010 present us with many challenges as well as many opportunities, and Raymond is the right person to lead our political team to continued success," West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, chairman of the DGA, said in announcing the appointment.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) is also active in the DGA. He serves as the organization's finance chairman.

-- John Wagner

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