Maryland Delegate Brooke Lierman was holding a political fundraiser in 2017, the day before she gave birth to her daughter, when the late House Speaker Mike Busch, listing her many attributes, praised her “spine of steel.”
That determination and strength were on full display during Brooke’s House floor speech in March, in which she shared for the first time in public her deeply personal and painful story of being raped in college. Speaking during a debate on a bill expanding abortion access, Brooke described her anger and fear that she might become pregnant but also her profound gratitude for knowing that the federal and state laws in place would allow her to control her own body and future. Brooke, like most women, is very concerned the harmful laws passed in Texas and Mississippi are jeopardizing the protections of Roe vs Wade, she could not stay silent with the real possibility the Supreme Court will fail Women and Girls by not acting to ensure our constitutional rights.
Interviewing Brooke, I saw the woman running to be Maryland’s next Comptroller as a person with a laser focus and crystal-clear vision of Maryland’s future. She is a natural leader, with a work ethic that has allowed her to successfully juggle two careers – politics and a law practice – while raising her 9-year-old son, Teddy, and 4-year-old daughter, Eliza, with her husband, Eben Hansel.
One could say she cut her teeth in politics: Her father is Terry Lierman, former chief of staff for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and prior to that Chair of the Maryland Democratic Party. Terry enthusiastically tells voters he became a feminist the day his daughter was born; you can see his pride when he stumps for her on the campaign trail.
It is clear Brooke’s mom also had a huge influence on the woman she has become. As a pediatric nurse who helped start the first in-home care team for Children’s Hospital in Southeast D.C., Connie Lierman’s courage and compassion for other people’s kids taught her daughter an invaluable lesson. When everyone’s children are healthy and well cared for, all children and all of society benefit. This concept is woven into Brooke’s personal and professional life, and she has instilled in her own children the importance of sharing their bounty with kids who have less.
Brooke’s academic aptitude and hard work were evident when, as a first-time writer, in high school, she wrote an award-winning column for her school newspaper about how in Sept. 1995 Baltimore Orioles Short Stop Cal Ripken Jr. played his 2,121st consecutive game-breaking Iron Horse Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive games played. She was the first woman in her school’s history to win this award and may have been the start of her loving all things Baltimore.
Her persistence and drive landed Brooke at Dartmouth College but not far from her internal compass, where she knew going to a prestigious school doesn’t mean you get to ignore the community where you live. So, she and a group of friends started the DREAM Program mentoring kids at a public housing development down the road but a world away from campus. They brought the kids back to Dartmouth every week, helped with homework, and fundraised to be able to take them to Boston and broaden their horizons. Just as the program opened up opportunities for the kids, it also taught Brooke and her classmates about rural poverty and inequality and the need for intervention. Twenty years after it was started, the nonprofit dreamprogram.org is still in operation, run by one of the founding members.
The political bug bit Brooke in college, and she got involved in U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone’s re-election campaign. A progressive icon from Minnesota, Wellstone was running for a third term and Brooke worked as one of his field organizers. Tragically, the Senator, his wife and his daughter lost their lives in a plane crash in 2002, 11 days before the election. Like other campaign volunteers and staff, Brooke was shocked and distraught, but she remembers thinking the only thing to do, the only thing Wellstone would have said is: Stand up and keep fighting, persist, no matter what. Even if you lose a hero, you cannot stop the mission and good works.
Following law school, Brooke decided to continue fighting for people, to make sure their voices are heard. She took a job with Brown Goldstein and Levy, and felt fortunate to work cases representing ordinary citizens. When Disney closed the downtown Baltimore ESPN Zone and laid off employees without required severance pay or benefits, Brooke partnered with the United Workers grassroots advocacy organization to represent them and won. Brooke and her team prevailed at summary judgment and won a strong settlement for the workers. She went on to represent school bus drivers, poultry workers, deaf plaintiffs who needed captioning, and blind students whose universities did not provide accommodations. She took on the tough cases many lawyers would shy away from.
Meanwhile, living in Baltimore was its own education in economic and environmental injustice, with disproportionate impacts on the poor and communities of color. Buses never showed up on time, there was lead in drinking water at schools, and too few services for young women, especially single mothers. Brooke decided the most effective way to right these wrongs was to run for delegate. She knocked on 14,000 doors, campaigning relentlessly because there was not an open seat and there were six candidates in the race for three slots. Brooke could have taken an easier route, gone into private practice, and enjoyed a life of privilege, but that was never in the cards for the daughter of Connie and Terry Lierman. This is a woman who sees a problem, then rolls up her sleeves to solve it.
Brooke has a calming presence and style and a knack for explaining key data points and policy in an easily digestible fashion, an important characteristic in a political leader. For example, I had never heard anyone say, “Better gun laws are also good for the budget.” I was impressed when she explained the nexus: Better gun laws not only save lives, they reduce injuries and permanent disabilities for citizens, law enforcement, and other first responders. Fewer injuries mean fewer emergency room and trauma unit visits and extended hospital stays. Better gun safety laws can also help reduce the growing staffing shortages in law enforcement, nursing, and teaching.
States and counties are struggling to find people who want to become police officers and nurses. Meanwhile, teachers are leaving the profession, partly in response to the stresses that emerged during COVID but also because of the threat of violence in schools, including gun violence. Brooke’s pragmatic and big picture approach got me excited about the possibility of a Comptroller who understands policymaking and knows how to direct funds to programs that actually work.
Brooke good-naturedly acknowledges very few Marylanders even know what the Comptroller does, but she’s making it her job to inform them. She decided to run for Comptroller, she says, because of the office’s importance to the everyday lives of all residents. She maintains that it is the only political office in the state that touches every person: pre-K to 12 and college students, workers, property owners, taxpayers, small business operators, retirees. Furthermore, she hopes as the state continues emerging from the COVID pandemic and racial reckoning, that she can be an advocate for “bread and butter issues” including education, job creation, and retirement.
She believes she is the right person for the job because as a former member of the House Appropriations Committee and Chair of the Pension Subcommittee, she has the experience of overseeing a $50 billion state budget, and a $70 billion dollar pension system. She also has litigated disabilities and civil rights claims all over the state and is a prolific legislator, having passed dozens of substantive bills over her eight-year career in the House. For a partial listing of her legislative accomplishments, go to 2022 Legislative Accomplishments.
Brooke’s grassroots support is real and enviable: she has a statewide strategy that includes boots on the ground in all 23 counties and Baltimore city. We’re talking door-to-door canvassing, phone banking, meet and greet events, and a Lierman for Comptroller presence at parades and festivals from College Park to Cumberland, Silver Spring to Salisbury. Her support is broad with an impressive number of lawmakers onboard including Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones, Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson, Congressmen Steny Hoyer, and Jamie Raskin, plus a coveted endorsement from retired U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski.
If you are looking for a Comptroller with a wealth of knowledge and legislative prowess, Brooke Lierman is your candidate. If you are looking for a Comptroller who understands the power and the potential of the office, Brooke Lierman is your candidate.
If you are looking for a Comptroller who will work tirelessly on behalf of the children and families of Maryland, Brooke Lierman is your candidate.
If you would like to get involved and be part of a people-powered movement, go to brookelierman.com.
Make a donation, grab a bumper sticker or yard sign, and most importantly, vote in the primary for Maryland’s first female Comptroller who can help unlock opportunities for every person, community, and business in our state.