Anthony Brown Stages Political Comeback in Congress
WASHINGTON – While Anthony Brown served as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland in 2008, violence struck close to home. The Maryland politician’s cousin was shot and killed by her estranged boyfriend while trapped in a garage. After an altercation with the Montgomery County Police, the armed assailant, Michael Wilson, was also killed soon after, ending a bloody confrontation. Brown learned of the news while in Denver where he was attending the Democratic National Convention before quickly returning to his home state. In a 2012 Baltimore Sun article, the former Lieutenant Governor wrote, “That day, I learned that no family is immune to the horrors of domestic violence.” The traumatic incident propelled Brown to expand resources for domestic violence victims and requiring judges to take away guns from abusers. “I wish I could say that Cathy’s story was unique, but sadly, there are too many Marylanders who are no longer with us because of domestic violence,’ he said.
Representative Anthony Brown (D-MD) public service spans decades before he entered the halls of Congress. The Maryland lawmaker served an an aviation officer in the 3rd Infantry Division during the Cold War in Germany. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his time spent in Iraq and also served as a JAG officer. During his many years overseas, Brown noted that he gained an increased level of sensitivity for those less fortunate. “When I was in Iraq, I had a realization that no matter where people live, we all want the same things for ourselves… we want to raise our families in a safe neighborhood, clean environment and access to health care, but what struck me is that for many people achieving that is considerably more difficult,” he explained.
While many Democrats are pushing for a more aggressive US policy to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Maryland lawmaker is wary of imposing a deal by the United Nations or western powers. “Our role should be to encourage, cajole, prompt and incentivize that commitment. But, this is an agreement that has to be struck between the two parties. It cannot be imposed because then it won’t be lasting,” he added.
A member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Brown met with President Donald Trump on March 22 and highlighted the need to work with the real estate mogul turned Commander in Chief in supporting veterans and infrastructure. At the same time, Brown emphasized his vehement opposition to the Republican-backed health care overhaul. Serving on the Armed Services Committee, the former JAG officer demonstrated his pragmatism by calling the President’s military strike in Syria “proportional” and “degrading his (Assad’s) ability to use chemical weapons in the future.”
Married to his wife Karmen, Brown has three children. A graduate of Harvard Law School, the Congressman gushed when showing a picture of his adopted son, Jonathan. In 11th grade, the lawmaker from Maryland has an app that keeps track if Jonathan is speeding while driving.
While Brown has enjoyed a long political career including as Majority Whip in the Maryland House of Delegates, the former aviation officer also suffered several setbacks. Most notably, Brown was defeated in Maryland’s 2014 gubernatorial race, losing an election where the state’s voters lean Democrat by more than a 2-to-1 margin. “Sometimes in life you are going to get knocked down,” Brown noted. “You have got to pick yourself up, and stay in the game. Teams that lose the Super Bowl don’t drop out of the NFL. They come back: season after season because that is the nature of life.”
Jewish Insider: Why did you run for Congress?
Congressman Anthony Brown: “It’s less about running for Congress and more about running to be in a position to serve the public. I have had the opportunity to serve in Maryland’s General Assembly for eight years. I served as Lt. Governor for eight years. I served 30 years on both active and reserve military duty and service is what motivates me to do what I do. I grew up in a household my father taught the lesson of service. He showed it to me everyday. He was a doctor, not a wealthy doctor. He raised five kids in a nice neighborhood but he encouraged his children to serve others to think about the needs of others as you’re taking care of your own needs. I watched him working in hospitals of low-income neighborhoods treating people who didn’t necessarily have the means to pay for the services, but he was focused on their needs. I knew I wanted to be like my father; I wasn’t thinking about going to medical school though. I decided to go to law school and with a law degree how can I use that service to others. In the 1990s, I ran for the House of Delegates and after my term was over as the Lt. Governor, I ran unsuccessfully as Governor and I returned to the practice of law when Senator Mikulski announced that she was retiring and Donna Edwards who was my predecessor, announced that she would run for that position, I thought, ‘Hey, this is a great opportunity to continue to serve.’ The things that I have always focused on: education, addressing the needs of some of those most needy in society whether it’s victims of domestic violence or foster kids. There are opportunities here in Congress to continue that kind of work.”
JI: What were the most powerful moments during your 30-year military service?
Brown: “I served five years on active duty as an aviation officer in Germany during the Cold War. We won that one. And then I had the opportunity while in the Reserves to spend a year in Iraq with the 353rd Civil Affairs Command in 2004-2005. When I was in Iraq, I had an enlightening experience, I had a realization that no matter where people live, we all want the same things for ourselves and our families: opportunities made possible by good education, we want to raise our families in a safe neighborhood, clean environment and access to health care, but what struck me is that for many people achieving that is considerably more difficult. And not only made difficult as I saw during my year in Iraq. Families living in a war torn country trying to get by wondering what the future holds for them. But, as I returned to the US and I picked up where I left off in the House of Delegates and later during my years as Lt. Governor, I think I developed a much greater sense of empathy and I strive for a greater understanding what the challenges are in communities around Maryland and around the country. What are your challenges? What are your struggles to achieve what everybody around the world wants?”
JI: What new perspectives have you gained while serving on the House Armed Services Committee, now overseeing the US military?
Brown: “We all draw on our experiences and we apply the lessons that we learned to the here and now. We are looking at big picture readiness issues. We talk about the risk, threat and scenarios that we ask the Armed Services to defend against to prepare for. Issues like manpower and force structure and the part of my experience that I draw upon the most is my first five years in active duty in the Army. I was a company grade officer. I started as a lieutenant, finished as a captain. I worked with soldiers everyday. I started as a platoon leader in a target acquisition flight platoon. I was a flight operations officer for a support battalion. Very much on the ground in the trenches. It is that experience that I bring to the Armed Services Committee. How are the decisions that we make in Congress affect that platoon leader, sergeant to execute the mission that we are going to ask them. Are they going to be well resourced, properly trained? Are they going to have good leadership?”
JI: In addition to your political viewpoints and military background, would you like to share other parts about yourself that may be unique on Capitol Hill?
Brown: “I don’t know if I would say unique because just like in Hollywood there are probably only 73 scripts that every single film could be written. In terms of personality traits, I have a real thirst for organization and orderliness. I like to fully understand the issues that I am asked to consider. I like to drill deep on the questions and the policy.”
JI: What are the steps that you would recommend the United States government take to reduce tensions between the Palestinians and Israelis and possibly reach a final status agreement?
Brown: “My basic framework is that you can’t impose a solution. I do think that there has to be a bilateral agreement reached by the Israelis and Palestinians. Our role should be to encourage, cajole, prompt and incentivize that commitment. But, this is an agreement that has to be struck between the two parties. It cannot be imposed because then it won’t be lasting.”
JI: Do you believe the Democratic Party has been effective in opposing the Trump administration’s policies?
Brown: “Well, last week I’d say is exhibit A. In order to pass most successful legislation, you have to have bipartisan agreement. The Democratic strategy that started soon after the November election was to educate America about the ill-conceived GOP plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and Republicans rose up in districts around the country because Democrats were messaging across the country and that message was heard by both Democrats and Republicans. People woke up and that’s why you saw in late January, Republican Members going back to their districts, they wanted to have town halls and talk about tax relief and infrastructure, but they got confronted about health care. Why did they get confronted with health care? Because Democrats made it an issue. So, the strategy played out more across America and less in the halls of Congress. It wasn’t our vote that did it. It was the level of activism.”
JI: Are there any areas for improvements?
Brown: “We are in a defensive posture in the House. On the health care, Democrats acknowledge and we have for seven years that it like many programs – Medicare and Medicaid before it – we need to make some improvements here. But, there was no will or cooperation among Republicans to join us in fixing it. But again, we are not governing.”
JI: What are the lessons that you learned from your unsuccessful campaign for Maryland Governor?
Brown: “Two lessons: Never stop introducing yourself to the voters. I thought during the primary we did a really good job at introducing myself. They knew my wife, my kids, and family store. They knew my cousin Kathy who was killed by her estranged boyfriend, the victim of domestic violence. So, they understood why things were important to me. Why healthcare was important, my father was a doctor. Foster care: I adopted my son Jonathan. They knew all of this. And as we got into the general election, we sort of got away from that. My takeaway is never stop introducing yourself to the voters, but the other lesson was the same lesson my father taught me as a kid growing up is sometimes in life you are going to get knocked down and you won’t be successful in what you sought out to do. But, if you believe in what you are doing: that is true whether you are running for office to serve, whether you are a doctor, lawyer, teacher or anything else. You have got to pick yourself up, brush yourself off and stay in the game. Teams that lost the Super Bowl don’t drop out of the NFL. They come back: season after season because that is the nature of life. It was a tough defeat. When Hillary lost last year, she said to her listeners it was painful. I knew exactly what she was talking about. It was a painful defeat but that’s life.”
JI: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Brown: “I’m an adoptive dad and this is my boy right here, Jonathan. That’s him playing baseball. He’s right now an 11th grader. He is a great kid. I am so grateful that we adopted him. We thought that we wanted to expand our family. We thought what a great thing. We adopt a child doing a great thing for this little boy. Didn’t realize then the real gift was the opportunity we now have to raise this great kid. Driving now. I got him on my app that I can keep track of when he’s driving. Where he’s driving. If he’s speeding any abrupt braking maneuvers.”