Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s nominee to the State Board of Education withdrew his name from consideration on Tuesday, the governor’s office said, a day after a Senate committee questioned whether he was qualified to join the policymaking board.
The Executive Nominations Committee grilled Brandon F. Cooper on Monday night about his legal and financial troubles, which include a drunken-driving charge, a 2010 bench warrant for failure to appear in court on a charge of driving with a suspended license and liens for thousands of dollars in unpaid state taxes and unpaid rents.
Some lawmakers also asked Cooper tough questions about his position on education policy, including testing, vouchers and underperforming schools.
“You didn’t pay your taxes to the state of Maryland; how can you take a position with the state of Maryland?” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said.
Cooper, the 28-year-old chairman of the Prince George’s County Republican Central Committee, told Miller that he is on a payment schedule for the unpaid taxes. The delinquency, he said, stems from a time when he worked as an independent contractor and taxes were not deducted.
Cooper, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, introduced himself to the panel Monday night as an Ohio native raised by a single parent, a product of public schools and a Howard University graduate who “is not perfect.”
A Suitland resident, Cooper is in law school at the University of Maryland at Baltimore. He told the committee that he was a founding board member for the 100 Black Men of Prince George’s County, a volunteer mentoring program, and that he served as the Baltimore activism manager for the Institute for Justice, an advocacy group that promotes school choice. His LinkedIn page says he has worked as a political consultant for the past eight years.
The Maryland Democratic Party criticized Hogan (R) for not vetting Cooper’s background more carefully, noting that the governor called for background checks for nominees to fill vacancies in the General Assembly after one nominee was indicted on campaign-finance charges.
A spokeswoman for Hogan did not immediately return a call Tuesday about Cooper’s background or the vetting process.
The nomination also drew strong opposition from the state teachers union.
The chair of the nominations panel, Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore), said he did not think that Cooper’s financial issues or brushes with the law disqualified him, noting that “everybody deserves a second chance.”
“What concerned me was a lack of experience in education policy,” Ferguson said.