Brown stages a come­back with con­gres­sional vic­tory

Win comes 2 years af­ter gu­ber­na­to­rial de­feat

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By Erin Cox Talia Rich­man con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle. ecox@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Eri­natTheSun

Demo­crat An­thony G. Brown dis­likes de­scrib­ing his land­slide election to Congress on Tues­day as re­demp­tion.

While he cap­tured a seat in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives on a shoe­string cam­paign bud­get af­ter be­ing de­feated in stun­ning fash­ion in the race for Mary­land gover­nor two years ago, Brown says “re­demp­tion” im­plies he needed to prove him­self or atone for his po­lit­i­cal loss.

In­stead, he says he just wants to serve the pub­lic, and that some­times peo­ple fail be­fore they suc­ceed.

“You get knocked down, you pick your­self up,” he said.

Sup­port­ers in Mary­land’s 4th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict say that at­ti­tude hu­man­ized Brown. He won 74 per­cent of the vote in the heav­ily Demo­cratic swath that stretches through Prince Ge­orge’s and Anne Arun­del coun­ties.

In con­trast, Brown lost the gover­nor’s race to Repub­li­can Larry Ho­gan af­ter spend­ing a record amount of money in a state where Democrats out­num­ber Repub­li­cans 2-1. It was only the se­cond time in a half-cen­tury that Mary­lan­ders elected a Repub­li­can gover­nor.

“It speaks to the dili­gence and the re­siliency of some­one whose heart is there for the peo­ple,” said Charis Jones, a 30-year-old per­former from Tem­ple Hills. She live-streamed her in­ter­ac­tion with Brown at a Fort Wash­ing­ton meet­ing last month, prais­ing him for be­ing will­ing to run for of­fice again.

“My sup­port of him grew fonder,” she said.

Brown will be in the Demo­cratic mi­nor­ity in the House. Both cham­bers of Congress will be con­trolled by Repub­li­cans for the next two years.

The for­mer lieu­tenant gover­nor, Har­vard-ed­u­cated lawyer and Army vet­eran said he hopes to prove him­self as a “work­horse, not a show horse” and build an ex­ten­sive con­stituent ser­vice op­er­a­tion.

The 2014 loss, how­ever, con­tin­ues to dog him, and vot­ers and jour­nal­ists of­ten ask how it feels to be on the win­ning side of an election. He knows some peo­ple de­scribe his loss as “hu­mil­i­at­ing,” but he said, “I stay away from the ad­jec­tives and the ad­verbs, and I stick to the facts.”

“The facts are we lost in 2014. No one sets out to lose,” Brown said. “But I do think that in this loss, it has drawn me closer to the peo­ple I rep­re­sent. … I think they ap­pre­ci­ate that I took it in stride be­cause that’s what peo­ple do ev­ery sin­gle day.”

Brown shed the high-dol­lar, in­su­lated and tightly con­trolled cam­paign style of his gu­ber­na­to­rial race for a more free­wheel­ing con­gres­sional bid. He did all of his own pub­lic­ity and knocked on doors per­son­ally, with­out an en­tourage.

He won a hard-fought six-way Demo­cratic pri­mary this past spring. And though he was heav­ily fa­vored to win this week, he still spent eight to 12 hours a day, ev­ery day, out­side early-vot­ing cen­ters in his dis­trict, perched on a kitchen stool and leav­ing noth­ing to chance.

“In some re­spects, it’s like he ac­tu­ally won by los­ing,” said Todd Eberly, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at St. Mary’s Col­lege. “I al­ways thought he was bet­ter as a leg­is­la­tor than as an ex­ec­u­tive. I think he has found some­thing that is ac­tu­ally bet­ter suited to his tal­ents and to his in­ter­ests in politics.”

The smaller and more in­ti­mate cam­paign, Eberly said, played up Brown’s per­son­al­ity. He was of­ten per­ceived as wooden and dis­tant when he ran for gover­nor.

“He’s a very en­gag­ing per­son to speak with one-on-one, and that never came across in that gu­ber­na­to­rial cam­paign,” Eberly said.

And though Brown says he’s not seek­ing re­demp­tion, it’s a nar­ra­tive that Eberly be­lieves res­onated with vot­ers.

“Ev­ery­body likes to be­lieve that you can be knocked down by life and you can still build your­self back up,” he said. “It’s in some ways a quin­tes­sen­tial Amer­i­can story.”

Some of Brown’s sup­port­ers are still up­set the rest of the state didn’t get be­hind him in 2014.

“Can we redo the gover­nor’s race?” Charles Smith, 59, asked Brown on Tues­day out­side a Prince Ge­orge’s County polling precinct. “You’re the only one I’m vot­ing for to­day.”

Smith said he liked Brown in 2014, but he now ad­mires him. “He wouldn’t let any­thing de­feat him. It’s a test of for­ti­tude, and that’s a great char­ac­ter trait to have.”

At the Tues­day night vic­tory party he shared with Democrats Jamie Raskin, who was elected to Mary­land’s 8th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, and Chris Van Hollen, who was elected to the Se­nate, Brown took the stage and thanked his “small but mighty” cam­paign op­er­a­tion. But first, he soaked in the moment. “It’s great to be back, yes in­deed,” he said. “Yes, in­deed.”

BAR­BARA HADDOCK TAY­LOR/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

An­thony G. Brown, the for­mer lieu­tenant gover­nor, greets early vot­ers in the 4th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict as they en­ter a polling place last week at the South­ern Re­gional Tech­nol­ogy and Recre­ation Com­plex in Fort Wash­ing­ton.

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