The lieutenant governor concentrates on daily duties, but his role remains unclear

A balancing act for Brown

March 29, 2007|By Jennifer Skalka | Jennifer Skalka,Sun reporter

When Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown took his oath of office on a bitterly cold day in January, he urged Marylanders to "walk good" and "let good walk with you."

His own do-gooding, though, is still a work in progress - and that's not for lack of effort.

Since the swearing-in, Brown has been running, not walking - to prayer breakfasts, blood drives and the solemn funerals of Maryland soldiers killed in Iraq.

He has jumped into his key assignment - leadership of the subcabinet created to manage the influx of military jobs created by the Base Realignment and Closure process (BRAC) - by holding regular meetings with state and local officials. It's a mission that dovetails with Brown's experience as a lieutenant colonel in the Judge Advocate General's Corps of the Army.

For a man with ambition, however, it isn't easy being Maryland's lieutenant governor. The state constitution doesn't convey any specific power or responsibilities to him and says only that he "shall have only the duties delegated to him by the Governor."

Brown, 45, the state's second black lieutenant governor, is intense, Harvard-educated and interested, no doubt, in his future beyond the Maryland State House. But if Brown, who served for eight years in the House of Delegates, most recently as majority whip, is bored by dutifully carrying out a largely ceremonial job, he doesn't let on.

"Anthony is a soldier, so he understands chain of command and teamwork," said Del. Dereck E. Davis, who represents Brown's former Prince George's County district. "The adjustment is going smoothly so far as I can tell."

Seated in a taupe wing chair in his second-floor State House office, Brown puts the best spin on his situation. He says his primary public responsibility is to promote Gov. Martin O'Malley's agenda, to make the governor look good. It's a goal he stated many different ways in the course of a recent hourlong interview.

"My role and responsibility is to support the governor in promoting his agenda," Brown said.

"We've been pushing the governor's agenda," he noted later in the talk.

And then, for emphasis: "My eye is on being the best lieutenant governor I can be."

Not every state has a lieutenant governor, a sign that gubernatorial succession often works smoothly without the position. In some places, secretaries of state fill the role. In others, the Senate president will do. And those states that elect officials into the position - there are 44 of them - set out different levels of responsibility.

In Louisiana, the lieutenant governor manages the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. The Indiana lieutenant governor, by contrast, has 42 statutory duties, the most in the nation, according to Julia Hurst, executive director of the National Lieutenant Governors Association.

"You can't have a big ego that you're all that important," said J. Joseph Curran Jr., who served as Maryland's lieutenant governor from 1983 to 1987 and is O'Malley's father-in-law. "You do what's required."

Maryland's office of the lieutenant governor was created by the constitution of 1864 but was only occupied from 1865 to 1868 before being phased out by the constitution of 1867. It was re-established by constitutional amendment in 1970, two years after Gov. Spiro T. Agnew was tapped to run for vice president, which left a vacancy in the top job and no one to fill it.

Seven people - including one woman, Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend - have served as lieutenant governor since 1971.

Townsend said her relationship with Gov. Parris N. Glendening allowed her to dig into a range of issues, including anti-crime initiatives and volunteerism.

"It really does depend on how you get along with your governor," she said, when asked how lieutenant governors draw their meatiest fare.

But Townsend counted herself a fan of Brown and said O'Malley would be wise to include him.

"I think he's very smart, extremely committed and has enormous talent," she said of Brown. "And O'Malley's a smart politician and a very good governor, and I'm sure he'll use him very well."

Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, an Eastern Shore Republican and former minority leader, said, too, that Brown is at O'Malley's mercy, but added that the jury's still out about how involved the lieutenant governor will be in shaping the administration's policy agenda.

"I haven't seen much of him, and as of now I don't know that the governor has let him do a whole lot," Stoltzfus said. "My personal feeling toward Anthony is that he's bright and that he's a good man. I have positive feelings about him personally, but as far as the job he's doing, I guess I don't have an opinion on that. How do you evaluate him when there's no criteria for the job?"

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