Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), who is seeking to become Maryland’s first black governor, was recognized Monday by the national NAACP for his work this year in repealing the state’s death penalty, a priority for the organization.
In remarks to the NAACP convention in Orlando, Brown thanked the group’s leaders for their lobbying efforts in Maryland, which became the sixth state in as many years to abolish capital punishment.
“It’s proven to be ineffective,” Brown said of the death penalty. “It’s unfair, it’s immoral and it’s racially biased.”
Brown’s candidacy for governor of Maryland also got a brief plug before his remarks from NAACP President Benjamin T. Jealous, who came to Annapolis on several occasions during this year’s legislative debate.
Jealous noted that Brown, who announced his 2014 gubernatorial bid in May, would be “the first black governor south of the Mason-Dixon since Doug Wilder” in Virginia.
Brown’s appearance in Orlando comes as Maryland’s race for governor continues to take shape.
Brown’s chief Democratic rival, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D), has said he will formally announce his candidacy in September. Another Democratic contender, Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery), is expected to make her bid official in coming days.
While the death penalty is not expected to be a major issue in the Democratic primary, it is one that divides the candidates.
Both Brown and Mizeur are opposed to capital punishment, while Gansler, a former state’s attorney in Montgomery County, supports it.
The repeal legislation was championed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D). Brown also appeared at rallies and testified on behalf of the governor’s bill before the General Assembly.
A Washington Post poll published in March showed that a majority of Maryland voters— 53 percent — continued to support the death penalty as a punishment for murder.
But capital punishment was opposed in the poll by majorities of Democrats (55 percent) and African Americans (56 percent).
Black voters are expected to play a key role in next year’s gubernatorial primary. In recent elections, they have accounted for more than 35 percent of Democratic primary voters in Maryland, according to exit polls.
Brown used his remarks Monday to tout several other initiatives recently passed in Maryland, including the legalization of same sex-marriage, new gun-control measures, the expansion of early voting and passage of the Dream Act, which extends in-state college tuition rates to undocumented immigrants in some cases.
“We believe in taking a stand against all forms of prejudice,” Brown said, referring to the legislature’s passage of same-sex marriage, which was upheld in a referendum in November.
He also touched on the verdict Saturday in the trial of George Zimmerman , who was acquitted of manslaughter and second-degree murder charges in the Sanford, Fla., death of teenager Trayvon Martin.
“Our country mourns the loss of a 17-year-old son, and we struggle as caring Americans to process the recent jury decision,” Brown said. “I have two sons and, like all parents, I want to do all I can to protect them from injustice, ignorance and pain. But this tragic death makes it clearer than ever before that our children are subject to the world we prepare for them. Each of us, families, neighbors, even strangers, have an obligation to contribute to a better, safer world for all of our children, not just those we raise.”