Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler launched his campaign for governor Tuesday, casting himself as an anti-establishment Democrat overflowing with ideas for a state he loves and willing to take risks to accomplish them.
"I am not your candidate if you want the status quo. I have never just gone along to get along," Gansler said before a crowd of about 300 in Rockville, the first stop in a six-day, 17-event statewide tour.
With Tuesday's announcement, Gansler joins a competitive Democratic primary to succeed term-limited Gov. Martin O'Malley.
Gansler, 50, laid out a series of specific policies he would enact if elected — raising the minimum wage, reforming the state's tax structure, investing in renewable energy sources, hiring more minorities in state government and building a high-speed rail line between Baltimore and Washington.
He called the achievement gap between white and minority students "our biggest moral stain."
"We cannot ignore any child," Gansler said, adding that closing the gap "will be one of my first and my most important causes."
Gansler said raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10 an hour would be his first priority if elected, though he will push the legislature to do so even before the election, in the session that begins in January.
The two-term attorney general, who served stints as a state and a federal prosecutor, began his campaign in front of the Montgomery County courthouse where he first gained notoriety for speaking his mind on cases, at times to the chagrin of judges. Gansler, a Yale-educated lawyer, casts his blunt talk and independent streak as assets.
Speaking later at a park in Baltimore's Reservoir Hill, Gansler took aim at state failings. Without mentioning O'Malley, he brought up the corruption scandal at the state-run Baltimore City Detention Center and cited the city's high unemployment rate as evidence that Maryland needs change. He also criticized O'Malley's zero-tolerance policing policies as mayor, which Gansler described as "empty talk about mass arrests."
"The neighborhoods need a governor," Gansler told a crowd of about 200.
For months, he telegraphed his bid for governor by holding forums across the state to promote his ideas on manufacturing, reducing the likelihood criminals return to prison and reducing domestic violence. Two other Democrats have campaigns well underway.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown launched his bid in May and soon after named Howard County Executive Ken Ulman as his running mate. Over the summer, Brown secured a string of endorsements from Maryland elected officials.
Del. Heather Mizeur of Montgomery County joined the race in the July and has focused her campaign so far on public service events. Like Gansler, Mizeur has described herself as the outsider candidate.
The announced Republican candidates are Harford County Executive David R. Craig, Del. Ron George of Anne Arundel County and Charles County business executive Charles Lollar. The party primaries are June 24.
Gansler pointed out Tuesday that Democrats would cast their vote for governor in exactly nine months, adding "the entrenched political establishment, the machine, the special-interest groups, the Annapolis lobbyists would like to make that choice for you. But it is the people who actually decide who will be the next governor."
Sen. Richard Madaleno of Montgomery County introduced Gansler at the Rockville event and praised him for supporting same-sex marriage as attorney general "at a time when it was an invisible issue."
"He put his career on the line," Madaleno said, adding that Gansler's early support — and a 2010 legal opinion that Maryland should recognize marriages performed in other states — helped make approval of same-sex marriage "inevitable in Maryland."
Gansler, in his remarks, said, "The point here his simple: I'm not worried about what conventional wisdom is, I'm not willing to just accept the way things are and play it safe."
That message resonated with Judy Hanrahan, a Silver Spring real estate agent who attended Gansler's Rockville rally. She said she backs him "because of his dedication and his sense of justice. He's not afraid to say it like it is."
Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.