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Md. Lawmaker Trades Politics For New Fight

Her headache faded. "That's what we're going to think for the next nine months," she told herself. "He's going to be one of the ones that comes back."

Brown's mother, Lilly, takes comfort from the nature of Brown's mission. "I know Anthony is going there to help and not destroy," she says. "And that makes me feel a little more secure."

Patricia Arzuaga gets a welcome home from son Jonathan, 4, and husband Del. Anthony G. Brown, who leaves for Fort Bragg, N.C., on Saturday. (Michael Lutzky -- The Washington Post)

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This week, Brown will visit his parents' home in Huntington, N.Y., where Arzuaga and their children, Rebecca, 9, and Jonathan, 4, will join him for a few days off. Saturday, he reports to Fort Bragg, N.C., to await his travel to Iraq.

A 'Nonpartisan Politician'

From the days of his childhood, Brown knew he wanted to lead. Elected president of Huntington High School, he won admission to several Ivy League colleges but opted for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He spent a summer there before deciding that boot polishing and menu memorization got in the way of academics. He switched to Harvard.

The child of a Jamaican father and a Swiss mother, Brown initially practiced what he calls a colorblind approach to race. He answered the inevitable question -- "Are you black or white?" -- by saying, "My father's black; my mother's white," and no more. At Harvard, a fellow student told him to get off the fence. He did and became more self-consciously African American. "I knew I couldn't get off the fence and identify myself as white."

As a sophomore, Brown registered for the Army ROTC, in part because he knew that military service would probably help him in politics. After graduation in 1984, his active-duty ROTC commitment took him to Germany, where his unit helped keep the Soviets at bay during the waning days of the Cold War. He returned to the United States in 1989 to attend law school, and he joined the Army Reserve.

Brown came to Washington after graduation in 1992, spent two years as a law clerk and then joined the firm then known as Wilmer Cutler Pickering. He and his wife settled in Bowie. His twin brother, Andrew, says Anthony chose Prince George's "as a place to start a grass-roots political career."

In 1994, Brown sought the advice of Sachs, then a Wilmer partner, who sent him to Timothy F. Maloney, then a member of the House of Delegates, who sent him to Ulysses Currie, a Prince George's delegate running for the Maryland Senate. It was July, two months before the primary, and Currie's campaign was moribund. Brown, with no experience, became campaign manager. "He did a hell of a job," Currie says. "I won overwhelmingly, and it was a tight match."

Currie put up Brown's name for an appointment to the board of Prince George's Community College, which he received, and later became chairman. "From there out," Brown says, "it was like, okay, now I'm in the game."

In 1996, he asked Currie to give him a spot as a candidate for delegate on Currie's ticket. The only problem: Brown's home in Bowie wasn't in Currie's 25th Legislative District. In three months, Brown moved his family out of their townhouse and into a much smaller apartment.

Arzuaga was not pleased, Brown recalls. "I said, 'Patty, you've got to do this,' " he says. " 'I'm going to run for office here. I've got to be in the district.' "

Brown barely made it through the 1998 primary, edging out a competitor by just 155 votes for the third slot on a "pick three" ballot. During his first term, says Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), "there was no doubt he was one of the most talented members of the General Assembly." Brown was reelected in 2002. And this June, Busch named Brown majority whip, making him the fourth-ranking House Democrat.

Brown is seen by fellow politicians and analysts as a pragmatic worker of the system, not a politician with fixed ideas. "He is not bound by any ideology or dogma," says Albert "Buzz" Winchester, a former Annapolis lobbyist. Brown calls himself a "nonpartisan politician" and cherishes praise from Republicans.

Political columnist Blair Lee, a Democrat who frequently embraces conservative positions, calls Brown "typically Prince George's liberal." Nonetheless, he adds, "when I see him on TV saying it is a privilege to serve, it makes me want to vote for the guy."

'I Will . . . Return Safely'

At the end of June, Brown held his annual breakfast fundraiser in the banquet room of a hotel in Greenbelt. Blossoms floated in glass globes on tables set for eight. A podium stood in front of the flags of Maryland and the United States.

The room filled up with colleagues and supporters. Many were there to say goodbye.

Wearing a tan suit, his shoulders squared and back straight, Brown stepped to the lectern, faced the flags and led the room in the Pledge of Allegiance. A few minutes later he offered a pledge of his own: "I will focus on the mission, abide by the laws governing our conduct, communicate as often as possible via Internet and e-mail and return safely next year."

The ovation began. Brown felt his emotions welling up. He is a tough guy, fit and self-disciplined, and he kept himself together. "I look forward to coming back," he said from the podium.

He walked to his table and stood next to Arzuaga. By then, everyone was clapping, nearly 75 people, and they were all standing. He hugged Arzuaga and kissed her.

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