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Brown Pays Daylong Visit to So. Md. To Talk Issues

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown’s gubernatorial campaign tour brought him through Southern Maryland on Sunday, as he hosted more than 170 total supporters at a trio of stops in Charles, St. Mary’s and Calvert counties.

Accompanied by U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) and state Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Prince George’s), Brown’s campaign hosted a house party in each county before wrapping up his visit with a stop at The Greene Turtle in Prince Frederick to chat up local residents.

Along the way, Brown (D) sat down for an exclusive interview with the Maryland Independent to discuss his campaign and policy proposals.

Brown has thus far announced a dozen initiatives, half of which involve education, and his campaign plans to roll out more proposals concerning schools, affordable housing and high-speed Internet access in rural communities. Each initiative has received detailed treatment on his campaign website, complete with multistep implementation plans, statistics and citations

“I think campaigns reflect how you’re going to govern,” Brown said. “I think we owe it to Marylanders that we lay out not only the benefits, but the costs of our proposals.”

Though voters naturally will tie him to the policies enacted under Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), Brown said his campaign is “about what’s next for Maryland.” Programs that worked under O’Malley stand to receive equal or further backing under Brown, he said.

Recent polls have shown Brown with a substantial lead over primary opponents Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) and Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery). Brown finished first in a straw poll held Saturday by the Young Democrats of Maryland, with Mizeur coming in a close second and Gansler a distant third.

If elected, Brown intends to increase the investments in school construction that contributed to the state’s five-year run as Education Weekly’s top-ranked school system in the nation.

But he acknowledged that not all students and parents see that ranking reflected in their schools. In Charles County, state-of-the-art conditions at newer schools such as North Point High School and soon-to-be-opened St. Charles High School lie in stark contrast to those at the oldest and most overcrowded schools.

“That’s why I’ll never put a period after, ‘Maryland had the No. 1 schools.’ It’s a comma,” Brown said. “Our work is not done until every student in Maryland can get a world-class education.

Closing the achievement gaps associated with students’ race and income is another of Brown’s initiatives, though he stressed that Maryland’s minority students are performing better than most across the nation.

The state’s black students rank in the top five nationally in fourth- and eighth-grade reading, while Latino students are top-five in fourth-grade reading, and eighth-grade math and reading, Brown said. Meanwhile, the state’s low-income students have improved their math and reading scores by more than 50 points over the last eight years, the best in the nation, he added.

“No one is satisfied with the achievement gaps we measure along race or ethnicity and income ... but that’s a good place to be. That’s making progress,” Brown said.

Still, partially because white students’ test scores also are on the rise, the state’s achievement gap is “not closing as fast as we’d like,” Brown said. His proposals include the creation of an office specifically tasked with closing the gap, along with steps aimed at noneducational factors like hunger and health, such as increasing participation in school breakfast programs and expanding school-based health services.

Brown also has proposed “major investments” in career and technology education programs in schools, as well as joining community colleges and businesses to create apprenticeship and internship opportunities for students.

Brown said he increasingly has heard concerns in rural communities about the growing prevalence of heroin abuse related to addiction to prescription drugs. To that end, Brown said the state needs to invest more in substance abuse treatment and addictions counselors.

Asked how he balances his time between his day job as lieutenant governor and campaigning for higher office, Brown pulled out his Blackberry. Noting that he’s also a father of three children, he scanned his calendar and cued up an item marking his son’s Little League baseball game.

“Governing is a top priority. Raising my family is a top priority. And the campaign, that’s for evenings and weekends,” he said.