After a humiliating defeat in Maryland’s 2014 governor’s race, former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown staged a comeback by winning a hard-fought Democratic primary for a seat in Congress.
Brown won the 4th Congressional District race on Tuesday with 42 percent of the vote, making him the odds-on favorite to replace Rep. Donna Edwards, who lost her bid for the Democratic Senate nomination.
Two years ago, Brown faced questions — if not outright ridicule — for losing the governor’s race in deep blue Maryland to a little known Republican, Larry Hogan. Pundits attributed his loss to a variety of factors, ranging from a poor campaign organization to a national political climate favoring Republicans
Brown had run two successful statewide races as lieutenant governor to Martin O’Malley. But his bid to be the state’s first African-American governor faltered badly.
“I think we ran a solid campaign in 2014,” Brown said Wednesday. “And we got caught in a bad Republican wave year.”
Edwards’ decision to run for the Senate this year presented Brown with an opportunity to redeem himself. And the demographics of the district — which included much of predominantly African-American Prince George’s County and parts of Anne Arundel County — were more hospitable.
While blacks comprise roughly 30 percent of the state’s population, they make up more than half the 4th District’s residents. Although its contours have shifted, the district is reliably Democratic, having been represented by one for 30 years.
Brown said his campaign for Congress was focused more locally. He knocked on doors, spoke in living rooms and embarked on a barbershop tour.
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He didn’t have the field to himself . Former Prince George’s prosecutor Glenn F. Ivey ran an aggressive campaign, amassing nearly 37,000 votes to Brown’s nearly 45,000. State Del. Joseline Pena-Melnuk received more than 20,000 voters. Three other candidates drew few votes.
Brown’s victory came on the heels of Edwards’ failed attempt to become the state’s first African-American female senator. She lost the primary to Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat representing neighboring Montgomery County.
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In her concession speech, Edwards noted that the Maryland was on the verge of having an all-male delegation and talked about the need to have minority voices.
“Donna Edwards is a formidable candidate,” said Thomas Schaller, a professor and chairman of the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s department of political science. “She just ran against a more formidable candidate.”
Schaller said it is possible that Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who passed on a Senate run this year, could have possibly been an African-American candidate who could have won statewide, noting he does well not only in Baltimore but also in the white areas of Howard County.
For his part, Brown is hopeful that Maryland could eventually have more African-American statewide officials.
“I’d like to see greater diversity among the ranks of the governors. I’d like to see greater diversity in the U.S. Senate,” he said. “I’d like to think all of the states, Maryland could be a great contributor to diversifying both.”