Rounding out the state tickets

Brown's career a steady climb up political ladder

Sun Profiles

Lt. Governor Candidates

Maryland Votes 2006

October 30, 2006|By Kelly Brewington | Kelly Brewington,Sun reporter

Anthony G. Brown's first inkling that he might enter politics came when his sixth-grade teacher told him he had what it took to be an attorney.

Not understanding the definition of attorney, Brown scoured the encyclopedia, where the explanation of a certain type of lawyer caught his attention: attorney general.

"I remember seeing this very important position, doing justice, serving the government," said Brown during a recent interview on the campaign trail. "I said to myself, `That's the kind of attorney I'm going to be.'"

Though his choice for public office has veered from his childhood goal - today he is Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley's running mate on the Democratic gubernatorial ticket - Brown has maintained a determined streak, a zeal for accomplishing the next big thing.

From Harvard undergraduate to active duty in the Army to Harvard Law School to the Maryland House of Delegates, Brown has moved deliberately, always seeming to build credentials for the next step.

On the campaign trail, he moves freely from crowd to crowd, be it mingling with well-heeled civil rights stalwarts at Prince George's County's NAACP Freedom Fund banquet or delivering his stump speech peppered with anecdotes from his tour in Iraq to Dundalk's working-class Democratic club.

All the while, he maintains a demeanor that is at once affable and determined, easygoing and yet relentlessly enthusiastic.

"I've seen that funny side, I've seen him let his hair down," said state Sen. Ulysses Currie, a Prince George's Democrat, who met Brown 12 years ago when as a young attorney he volunteered to work for Currie's Senate campaign. "But he's a soldier. He's no-nonsense. This is a war he's in."

Indeed, the war analogy is one that Brown rarely misses an opportunity to underscore while on the stump. A lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, he was awarded the Bronze Star after nine months in Iraq working as a senior consultant to the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration.

To a group of state municipal leaders at a conference, he likened their positions as mayors and town managers to a military brigade, the governor's office as the division commander.

Later, Democratic U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger introduced Brown not as the Harvard grad but as a man who "will never forget our veterans."

As if it were his second home, Brown breezed into the Battle Grove Democratic Club, an institution in Eastern Baltimore County where die-hard Democrats politick over cigarettes and plastic cups of draft beer.

It had been a long day, but aside from a worn voice, Brown was still a bundle of energy, with wide eyes and a hearty handshake.

In his speech, Brown segued from Iraq to a critique of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s administration.

"You see in the eyes of Iraqis, who are so desperately seeking a leadership that puts people first, that puts progress ahead of politics," he said.

"That's no different here in Maryland. We may not be in as desperate a situation, but as I travel the state of Maryland, I see we want the same thing in our government. We want a leader unlike Bob Ehrlich who puts the public interests ahead of special interests."

Born and raised in Long Island, N.Y., Brown attended Harvard College on an Army ROTC scholarship. After graduation, he went on active duty for five years as a helicopter pilot. When Brown returned home, he enrolled in Harvard Law School, switching to the Army Reserve. There he met his wife, Patricia Arzuaga, with whom he has an 11-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son.

Brown began his career as an attorney in the Washington firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, leaving later to pursue politics.

In 1994, he volunteered to run Currie's campaign for state Senate. In return, Currie nominated him to be a trustee on the board of Prince George's County Community College, and he served from 1995 until he ran for - and won - a seat in the House of Delegates in 1998.

Brown was named vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee in 2003 and, shortly before deploying to Iraq in 2004, was appointed House majority whip.

But it was upon Brown's return from Iraq that he was catapulted to the status of Democratic Party rising star, seen as a candidate for posts including lieutenant governor and attorney general.

Perhaps because of the attention, Brown has had to work to win the acceptance of his fellow lawmakers in the General Assembly, said Currie.

"He has had to work hard because he's an up-and-comer," Currie said. "In this business, if you move that quickly, people are always kind of second-guessing you: `How did you get that and I didn't?'"

Brown acknowledges that he was hesitant about the lieutenant governor position because its role is undefined in the Maryland Constitution. But since accepting O'Malley's offer, he has quickly taken to the task of criticizing the current administration.

In interviews, Brown makes a point of distinguishing himself from Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who is running for U.S. Senate.

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