Del. Anthony G. Brown (D-Prince George's) was back in Annapolis last week, engaged in a far gentler kind of combat than what he left behind during a tour of duty in Iraq.

Brown, an Army Reservist, spent nine months in the war-torn country, serving as a U.S.-appointed consultant to Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration, with tasks that included helping uprooted Iraqis regain housing.

Last week, the Harvard University-educated lawyer could be found in a committee room, helping fend off efforts by Republican lawmakers to limit the powers of a special committee reviewing firings of state workers after the arrival of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). Brown, the affable House majority whip, is one of a dozen legislators assigned to the panel.

That work was overshadowed, however, by speculation about what other political opportunities Brown might pursue.

Word leaked to reporters about a midweek lunch meeting in Beltsville with Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D).

Both men said their discussion was a broad survey of the 2006 political landscape, but it is no secret that Brown is among those Duncan might ask to serve as his running mate in a race to become governor.

The delegate's time in Iraq could make him more attractive in that role.

Brown said after the meeting, however, that he is weighing a number of races that could lead to an office offering "a higher, better use of my skills."

Among the possibilities, he disclosed, is the U.S. Senate race for the seat of the retiring Paul S. Sarbanes (D).

"I don't have a sense of urgency to declare myself a candidate for anything right now," Brown said, before strolling off.

He is likely to get plenty of advice Saturday at a "Welcome Back From Iraq" block party being held outside his Prince George's County home.

An invitation emblazoned with an American flag advertises music, dancing, clowns, face painting and cotton candy.

-- John Wagner

Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan lunches with Brown, fueling speculation about Brown's plans.Army Reservist Anthony G. Brown is shown in Iraq last fall. He spent nine months there.Brown (D), the House majority whip, says he's not declaring himself a candidate for anything.