When Maryland’s next governor is sworn in on Wednesday, Democrat Anthony G. Brown will be sitting in the audience rather than taking the oath of office.
It’s a place where virtually no one — certainly not Brown, the state’s outgoing lieutenant governor — predicted he would be in June, when he trounced his opponents in a bitter Democratic primary. But Brown squandered a sizable party advantage and lost in November to Republican businessman Larry Hogan, halting a fast-rising and ambitious political career.
After largely dropping out of sight for two months, Brown, a retired Army reservist, re-emerged last week in the familiar role of loyal soldier. He joined Hogan, now the governor-elect, in greeting lawmakers as they returned to Annapolis for the start of their annual legislative session.
The next day, Brown gave a farewell address to the legislature in which he spoke graciously of Hogan as someone who loves the state and is committed to its future.
“I hope for his success,” Brown said in an interview. “While Governor Hogan and I have different sorts of philosophies perhaps on the role of government, he potentially can be equally successful in achieving great results on behalf of Marylanders.”
Brown said he is concerned about what will happen under Hogan to some of his progressive policy priorities, including expansion of preschool education. He said he was proud of his efforts to expand health care in the state, which he called a success despite the botched rollout of the online insurance marketplace; initiatives that helped military veterans; and his oversight of state efforts to prepare for a round of base alignments early during his first term.
In terms of his own future, Brown said he has “taken the last several weeks to take stock in myself and where I am in life, both professionally and personally.” He said he is weighing several job options that would make use of his training as a lawyer and did not rule out another run for elected office.
A former delegate from Prince George’s County, Brown has told several associates he might be interested in lobbying in Annapolis — a potential challenge, given his lack of close ties to the incoming Republican administration and a widespread feeling of disillusionment among Democratic lawmakers after his general-election defeat.
In a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 2-to-1, Brown lost to Hogan by four percentage points. Many in his party say he ran a lackluster campaign, too focused on issues such as guns and abortion that he and his advisers thought could be damaging to Hogan. The Republicans’ focus on pocketbook issues resonated much more strongly with voters.
Brown blamed his defeat on a challenging political climate in Maryland and depressed Democratic turnout across the country. He compared his plight with that of a farmer.
“You can have the best farmer, with the best understanding of agriculture, and the best fertilizer, the best seed, the best equipment and the best farmhands,” Brown said. “But if the weather doesn’t cooperate, that farmer simply will not get the yield that they want.”
Donald F. Norris, director of the school of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said the assessment struck him as “wildly delusional.”
“He lost because he ran a really bad campaign,” Norris said. “He didn’t have a compelling narrative. He didn’t give people a reason to vote for him.”
Brown declined to say whether he thought race played a role in his defeat. He would have been the state’s first African American governor and only the third elected in the nation.
Reflecting on his tenure, he said two broad initiatives meant the most to him: efforts to reduce domestic violence, a cause he took on after his cousin was killed by an estranged boyfriend; and a successful campaign to shrink the number of children living in foster care.
“Those are the two things, in terms of touching my heart, really making me feel good about what we did,” said Brown, himself an adoptive parent. “In any down days that I may have felt during the last two months, I look in the mirror and I think about those two things in particular, and I start to smile.”