Second in command

November 06, 2006

THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF Maryland has just one key responsibility under the law: to finish out the term of the state's chief executive if he or she no longer can serve. But a good lieutenant governor can carve out a meaningful role in the administration of the state -- and that potential is what voters should be looking for in a candidate.

Both Democrat Anthony G. Brown and Republican Kristen Cox have experience in government. He served eight years in the state legislature; she's been a Cabinet secretary since 2003.

But of the two, Mr. Brown has the experience and practical know-how that better qualify him to be an effective lieutenant governor -- and to take on the role of governor if called upon. It is puzzling, in fact, that the Democrats have been criticized for supposedly not having an African-American at the top of their ticket, when Mr. Brown brings not only racial diversity but a host of talents to this statewide post.

A Harvard-trained lawyer, he learned the basics of leadership during his five years in the Army, where he served as a helicopter pilot. Mr. Brown remains in the Army reserves and, as a lieutenant colonel, served a tour of duty in Iraq. During his four years at a prominent Washington law firm, Mr. Brown represented investment and securities firms but did enough volunteer legal work to earn the firm's pro bono award.

Mr. Brown got his start in politics volunteering in a Prince George's County state Senate campaign. He was named to the board of Prince George's Community College, where he honed his interest in higher-education issues. After three years, he decided in 1998 to strike out on his own politically -- and won a seat in the House of Delegates. Like the military, the chamber has a chain of command and Mr. Brown worked his way through it, ascending from a vice chairmanship to the post of majority whip and earning superlatives from his legislative commander in chief.

It's that experience that sets him apart from Mrs. Cox. Mr. Brown would bring to the office an understanding of the process, an ability to build consensus and a sense of what it takes to be a leader.

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