ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Sure to be paying as much attention to the results in Tuesday's primary election in Maryland as Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown will be the man Brown wants to replace -- Gov. Martin O'Malley.
A Democratic primary win for Brown, a likely favorite come November in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1, is a victory, too, for the departing O'Malley. It would install in Annapolis an ally at home able to carry on and defend the work of his old boss' eight years in office as O'Malley heads toward a potential run for president in 2016.
"His victory will validate the fact that Gov. O'Malley has been a successful, results-oriented leader for the state of Maryland," said Lis Smith, a Democratic political operative who works for O'Malley's political action committee.
Brown is undoubtedly the choice of the state's Democratic establishment, having won widespread endorsement from state, local and federal officials in Maryland. He's favored in Tuesday's primary, with recent polls showing him as a clear front-runner against Del. Heather Mizeur and state Attorney General Doug Gansler.
Gansler's campaign provides an example of some of the headaches O'Malley might face while spending time in New Hampshire and Iowa, where he was the keynote speaker this past weekend at the Democratic state convention, should Brown not be seated in his old office in Annapolis.
While Brown led the state's efforts around health care reform and adoption of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, it was O'Malley who took the lead in providing updates on the status of Maryland's badly troubled health care exchange website, which crashed shortly after it debuted Oct. 1.
The website is being revamped with new technology from Connecticut for the next enrollment period beginning Nov. 15 -- soon after the general election on Nov. 4. Gansler has used the issue to attack Brown. A win for Brown puts an O'Malley partner of eight years with a large share of responsibility for the health care rollout and a stake in its success in office.
"Marylanders want to see leaders who did the hard work, took on the problems -- even the problems that arose -- and got the job done," Brown said in a debate this month, noting the state still exceeded its goal of 260,000 new enrollments through added Medicaid signups.
A victory by Brown in November also eliminates the prospect of a GOP governor undoing the wide variety of tax increases O'Malley shepherded through the state legislature while in office to fund environmental protection efforts and build transportation infrastructure.
The issue is a priority for real estate broker Larry Hogan, a GOP candidate who has fared well in poll's ahead of Tuesday's primary.
"The people feel like they got hoodwinked last time, and they've just been beaten to death over the past four years and eight years, and they definitely want to see a change," Hogan said.
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