Tag Archives: Anthony Brown

In miniature, January 21

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Letter to an independent Washington Post reader

[Note: I sent this as a letter to the editor to the Washington Post in October. They’d recently run another letter of mine on the economic issues at stake in the Hogan/Brown contest, so I’m not surprised they passed, but I’m going ahead and publishing it here, slightly expanded]

Petula Dvorak (Oct. 14) well describes how Maryland’s gubernatorial election leaves many independent voters feeling torn. They worry that Democrat Anthony Brown, who presided over the disastrous flop of the state’s health exchange website, would not manage finances responsibly in our job-challenged state, even though he vows not to raise taxes. And they worry that Republican Larry Hogan might push a divisive social agenda, though he vows not to reopen issues like same-sex marriage.

If the tension between these fears is hard to resolve in theory, it is easy in practice. Whoever we elect as governor, the Maryland legislature will remain much as it is now, overwhelmingly Democratic. Its leaders have backed tax and spending increases and would press the same priorities on a Governor Brown, offering political cover for him to acquiesce in new taxes. At the same time, the legislature has zero interest in rolling back its own recent choices in social policy, and such a rollback would be dead on arrival in Annapolis if for some reason a Governor Hogan were to go back on his vow and try it.

Because of the makeup of its legislature, Maryland’s fiscal locomotive is going to have an accelerator no matter what. The question is whether it could use a brake. Up and down the Northeast, voters elect moderate Republican governors to serve as a check on strongly Democratic legislatures. That is a compelling reason this year to select Larry Hogan.

One more point: Larry Hogan, like Democrat Heather Mizeur before him, chose to forgo big-ticket fundraising and opt for the alternative of public financing, even though it ensured (as in Mizeur’s case) that he would be heavily outspent by his adversary. Anthony Brown has chosen instead to scoop up millions from businesses, unions, state contractors, and other groups with a direct financial stake in Maryland legislation, as well as outside groups seeking to make an ideological point. Reasonable people can take different views of public financing, but isn’t it worth noticing when a Democratic candidate dives gleefully into the big money pool while the Republican stays out? If you’re serious about the problems of big money in politics, shouldn’t this be another factor in your vote?

— Walter Olson, New Market, Md.

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Baltimore Sun endorses Anthony Brown

The Sun’s bizarrely left-handed endorsement reads like a breakup letter with Anthony Brown that talks itself into giving him one last chance. It cites his “strikingly dishonest” campaign with its “unrepentant mendacity” and says his growth promises “sound laughable” after his role in the “disastrous” health exchange “debacle.” It praises Larry Hogan as “genuine and appealing” with a “strikingly moderate” agenda. Then … it forgives Brown while pledging to hold him accountable next time. Next time — but not this time.

Dear Sun: Stop trying to reform him. It’s over. Move on.

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Show Me The Way To Frederickstown, or, Lost In Maryland

Update: Here’s Lauren Weiner’s rendition, to the tune of “Sweet Betsy from Pike.” Freelance writer Lauren Weiner has lived in Baltimore since 1992. Also, thanks to the Weekly Standard for their reprint!

[News item — in the final debate between Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Larry Hogan, asked about whether Western Maryland interests were neglected, Brown referred to “Frederickstown” — 53:34 in video]

[can be sung to “Nottamun Town,” made famous by Jean Ritchie, or other tunes.]

By Walter Olson


Come all you good people and now gather round,
I’ll sing you the story of Anthony Brown;
Who wandered thro’ Mar’land, up hills and down,
Saying show me the way to fair Fred-er-ickstown.

“For eight years in office I’ve just hung around,
Except for that website I ran to the ground,
But Emperor O’Malley has willed me his crown,
So show me the way to fair Frederickstown.”

“Oh Tony, oh Tony, please pencil this down,
There’s a city called Frederick, of famous renown,
The state’s second largest, with green hills all round,
But there is no city called Frederickstown.”

“Do not contradict me,” Tony said with a frown,
“These eight years I’ve traveled this whole state around,
Eastminster, St. Gary’s, and Salisboro town,
From Hagersville-Port to the Chesapeake Sound.”

We wanted a governor with feet on the ground,
We chose Larry Hogan, our taxes came down,
If out on the byways you should meet Mr. Brown,
He’s still out there looking for Frederickstown.

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New Washington Post poll finds 9-point gap in governor’s race

The Post’s new poll is less favorable to Republican Larry Hogan than some others, though it still shows considerable narrowing from an 18-point difference early in the summer. It also makes clear that the remaining gap is entirely owing to the gigantic Democratic edge among D.C.-orbit voters (who tend to tune out state politics; Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has become unpopular in the rest of the state, still coasts along with high numbers around D.C.). Even in this relatively unfavorable poll Hogan is leading in traditional battleground Baltimore County by 11 points, but the Post has him trailing in Montgomery and Prince George’s County by a very wide margin (the numbers, for whatever reason, appear to no longer be online).

Is a month long enough to educate enough residents of Rockville and Silver Spring and Greenbelt and Fort Washington about what the rest of the state knows so well? One indication of just how much education remains to be done during the campaign’s final month is found in this truly surreal sentence from the story by John Wagner and Peyton M. Craighill (emphasis added): “voters give the nod to Brown on health care, despite his oversight last year of the state’s botched rollout of its online health insurance exchange.”

As I’ve said before, most well-educated, civic-minded D.C. suburbanites I’ve met simply don’t know about Brown’s leading role in the colossal, expensive health exchange fiasco. If only a newspaper of wide circulation and journalistic ambition in this coverage area — say, the Washington Post — had kept on the story long enough and with enough reporting muscle to get the word out!

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In miniature, September 20

  • Earlier this month the Washington Post ran my letter to the editor about how if Maryland exempted much or even all retirement income from its income tax, its tax structure would still not be a particularly radical or outlying one; the Post had blasted GOP candidate Larry Hogan for an off-the-cuff suggestion. More background here and here;
  • Dems unhappy at Hogan for not running on social issues [Washington Post]
  • In progress, Sept. 19-21: “Gerrymander Meander” run along 225-mile circuitous route to call attention to outrageously drawn Maryland electoral districts [Baltimore Post-Examiner]
  • U. of Maryland police got armored truck, other military surplus through Pentagon’s 1033 program [The Diamondback] Uncritical look at what Frederick city and county got from program [Paige Jones, Frederick News-Post; my two cents in the FNP and more]
  • The gang that couldn’t malign straight: Howard County Dems keep getting Allan Kittleman’s record wrong [Len Lazarick]
  • “Maryland’s economy had no growth in 2013, ranking 49th in U.S.” [Baltimore Business Journal]

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The scandals editors harp on — and the ones they don’t

“Report: Bridge scandal probe finds no tie to Christie, feds say” reads The Hill’s headline. The report says “unnamed federal officials briefed on the criminal investigation told NBC 4 New York they have, so far, uncovered no evidence [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie had knowledge of or directed the road closures.”

Now we find out! And yet pretty much everyone who follows the news knows all about Bridgegate, and no matter what the evidence does or does not show, the story is going to color our view of Christie. That’s what saturation media coverage will do. Rightly or wrongly, some scandals get firehose media coverage — while others get barely a sprinkle.

Take, for example, a scandal far more consequential to the well-being of its state than Bridgegate, namely the $125 million implosion of Maryland’s Obamacare health exchange website. As I noted last month, columnist Barry Rascovar calls the failed rollout an “immense fiasco,” a “monumental disaster that should have been foreseen,” even “the costliest debacle in Maryland state history.” Especially since (as I put it then) “Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is now the Democratic candidate for governor, had been assigned to oversee the rollout as his big project, having few other duties attached to his position.”

Yes, places like the Washington Post did give a smattering of coverage to the scandal and Brown’s involvement in it — enough I suppose that the editors can acquit themselves in their own minds of the charge of not having covered it at all. But if you weren’t paying close attention you might have missed the stories, and within few days outlets like the Post were content to let the matter drop. No steady flow of reportage, investigative pieces, human interest sidebars, columns, and editorials asking tough questions and insisting that the Maryland public deserved answers.

These days, what’s remarkable is the way the Post contrives to avoid noticing the scandal as an election issue even when you’d think circumstances would make it tempting to do so. On Tuesday, for example, the Post’s Jenna Johnson reported on the relaunch of the failed Maryland site, scheduled to take place this coming Nov. 9. Johnson does mention in passing “the deeply troubled Web site that debuted last year and crashed almost immediately.” Isn’t there something that kind of jumps out about the date Nov. 9? That it’s only five days after Election Day — a day in which the Maryland Democratic ballot will be headed by the author of the earlier failure, Anthony Brown? Yet in a fairly lengthy piece, Johnson — whose beat is described as including both the 2014 election and the administration of Martin O’Malley — refrained from mentioning either the election timing or Brown.
All of which helps explain why I constantly meet Post readers from the Maryland Washington D.C. suburbs, otherwise well-informed and civically minded people, who simply have no idea that Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown played a central role in (to quote Rascovar again) this “monumental disaster that should have been foreseen,” this “costliest debacle in Maryland state history.” It’s why I keep meeting Post readers who have no clue that the O’Malley administration, solicitous of Brown’s interests, has put off a what-went-wrong reckoning until well after the election in which he’ll be on the ballot. And because they don’t know about these things, they also don’t think to question how Brown has utterly failed to take responsibility for what happened, instead dodging and diverting blame to departing O’Malley health director Josh Sharfstein. The Baltimore media on the whole has done a better job at covering these questions — and have you noticed how much trouble Brown is having with popularity these days in the Baltimore area?

Had the Post and other D.C.-focused media outlets kept on the health exchange story the way they kept on Christie’s Bridgegate story, I think Anthony Brown would today be behind in the race against Republican Larry Hogan for governor. The good news is there’s still six and a half weeks before Election Day for them to catch up.

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In miniature, Aug. 28

  • “Auditors from the federal government are delving into the debacle of Maryland’s health insurance exchange, The Baltimore Sun reported Wednesday. All we can say is, good.” [Frederick News-Post] Catalogue of state ObamaCare exchange debacles, of which perhaps only Oregon’s outdoes ours [Peter Suderman] Role of departing health commissioner Sharfstein [Maryland Reporter] Role of Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, earlier;
  • More details on GOP poll finding governor’s race almost neck-and-neck [Maryland Reporter, earlier]
  • Police militarization: Frederick News-Post runs a letter from me about vote by Reps. Van Hollen, Delaney to preserve Pentagon-surplus-to-cops program. Choicest comment: “The liberal left is never happy.” (Referring to me!) Related Baltimore Sun coverage of 1033 program in Maryland; earlier post here.
  • Conveniently, privacy laws conceal identity of official in the O’Malley/Brown administration accused of inside dealings [Baltimore Sun] My little crony: Mark Newgent traces energy subsidy flow to firm run by O’Malley sidekick [Red Maryland]
  • Truly discouraging that legislature would discontinue reporting through which we learn that law enforcement agencies in Maryland have conducted more than 6,500 SWAT raids since 2010, the great majority over execution of search warrants [Newgent]
  • Dems launch StopPeroutka.com [Len Lazarick, Barry Rascovar; earlier] His affinities with Anne Arundel sheriff nominee [StopPeroutka.com]

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MD-GOP poll: Hogan within 3 points of Brown

Not to say we told you so, but, yeah, we told you so. Details here on the 45-42 margin. And suddenly a race many wrote off as hopeless is looking very winnable, with Labor Day and the whole fall election season yet to come.

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Militarize local cops? Six Maryland House members voted for, two against

Two months ago, joining forces from right and left, GOP Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) backed an amendment that would have ended the shipment of various categories of military-grade armaments to local police forces under the 1033 program, which has shipped billions of dollars’ worth of such equipment to local forces in recent years. Among items that would no longer have been made available, had the amendment passed: “aircraft (including unmanned aerial vehicles), armored vehicles, grenade launchers, silencers, toxicological agents (including chemical agents, biological agents, and associated equipment), launch vehicles, guided missiles” and so forth.

The full House voted down the amendment by a vote of 355 to 62. Leadership from both parties opposed the amendment, which won votes from 19 Republicans and 43 Democrats.

So how did the Maryland delegation come down? Only Democrats Donna Edwards and John Sarbanes voted to end the flow of military gear, while Democrats John Delaney, Chris Van Hollen, Elijah Cummings, Dutch Ruppersberger, and Steny Hoyer and Republican Andy Harris joined Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner in voting no.

Zaid Jilani at Vanity Fair writes that “Congress has been a willing participant in the arming of the police for years now, and the man most responsible for this trend graduated from Congress to the executive branch: Vice President Joe Biden.” Jilani also notes that defense equipment producers and police interests form a powerful combined lobby to keep the program big. On the role of Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, who of course is himself a senior Democratic leader in the House:

Hoyer is one of the two members who have received thousands of dollars from the National Fraternal Order of Police (F.O.P.) in this campaign cycle. As tensions continued to mount in Ferguson, F.O.P.’s executive director Jim Pasco defended the militarization of police officers. “All police are doing is taking advantage of the advances of technology in terms of surveillance, in terms of communication and in terms of protective equipment that are available to criminals on the street,” Pasco told The Hill on Thursday.

Maryland’s own statewide F.O.P., it should be noted, just endorsed Democrat Anthony Brown for governor.

If Maryland representatives, especially those representing liberal and African-American communities, seek to reverse the militarization trend in view of public reaction to the scenes from Ferguson, Mo., it will be their own record most of them will need to run away from. Incidentally, I’m scheduled to join radio host Diane Rehm tomorrow (Monday) at 10 a.m. on her popular WAMU program to discuss police militarization; you can find more of my recent writing on the subject at links here and here.

To see how your Representative voted, follow this link.

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