THE MUTED public response to the three-way race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Maryland is curious, given that the winner of the June 24 primary is likely to become the state’s next governor.
After all, Democrats enjoy better than a 2-to-1 edge in voter registration in Maryland, putting the eventual Republican nominee at a severe disadvantage. Yet even though the main candidates — Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler — have been preparing to run for years, much of the party’s electorate remains undecided. The third candidate, Del. Heather R. Mizeur (Montgomery), the most liberal of the three, is largely unknown.
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The enthusiasm deficit may owe something to the monochromatic political palette in Maryland. When all the relevant players are Democrats, it’s hard to muster much passion about candidates whose allegiances are virtually identical and whose differences are relatively nuanced.
Still, Mr. Brown strikes us as the best candidate and the one most likely to improve what Democratic leaders concede is the state’s anemic track record in attracting and retaining jobs and employers. Unlike Mr. Gansler, Mr. Brown has not scattered spending promises (often without plausible funding sources) like grass seed. Unlike Ms. Mizeur, he will not inspire panic attacks in the business community.
No doubt, Mr. Brown, who is Gov. Martin O’Malley’s anointed successor, is a mainstay of the Democratic establishment and a paragon of the status quo. That status quo includes the state’s blatant failure to build a functioning online market for private health insurance — a failure over which Mr. Brown presided, or was supposed to preside. It also includes substantive accomplishments, including making the state more welcoming to gays and immigrants and replenishing the transportation fund in support of public transit.
Lieutenant governors rarely have an opportunity to distinguish themselves. But Mr. Brown strikes us as a conscientious public servant with broad experience as a lawyer (including in the Army, where he did duty in Iraq), a legislator (representing Prince George’s County in the House of Delegates for eight years) and in the executive branch (as Mr. O’Malley’s right hand for another eight years).
Mr. Gansler has proposed a major cut in the corporate income tax, without a convincing plan to recoup those lost revenues or make corresponding spending cuts. Ms. Mizeur’s ambitious programs would abandon whatever remains of restraint in Maryland’s approach to spending.
The focus of Mr. Brown’s campaign, at least rhetorically, has been to foster a business climate more conducive to employment growth. He proposes a cautiously staged expansion of pre-kindergarten education and a renewed emphasis on vocational schooling. If he has not offered voters a soaring vision, he has also not over-promised. That’s the right approach after the drumbeat of tax increases — some unavoidable — in the O’Malley years, which has left Maryland struggling to compete with Virginia for jobs.