As the race to be the Democratic nominee for Maryland attorney general enters its final stretch, the contest is increasing looking like a toss-up between two long-standing fixtures of state politics. And there’s a Shakespearean-level family twist.
Rep. Anthony Brown was lieutenant governor from 2007-2015 under Gov. Martin O’Malley. The pair ran as a ticket in 2006 and worked closely together in Annapolis. Brown lost the 2014 governor’s race to succeed O’Malley. But Brown quickly rebounded by winning an open Prince George’s County-based House seat in the Washington, DC, suburbs.
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Brown’s main Democratic primary rival for attorney general is an assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore County who went on to serve as a Baltimore City district judge, Katie Curran O’Malley, who just happens to be the wife of Brown’s old boss, the former governor. Curran O’Malley was Maryland’s first lady for those eight years after her husband’s 2006 gubernatorial win. She’s also the daughter of longtime state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.
Brown and Curran O’Malley will face off in the July 19 Democratic primary. They’re vying to succeed Attorney General Brian Frosh, who is retiring from office. The Brown-Curran O’Malley race has forced the Democrats, both at the state and national levels, to pick sides. And with the most recent polls having found the two candidates statistically tiedthis race is likely headed for a photo finish.
Because there are few notable policy differences between the two, the race has centered on other factors, such as relevant experience and governing philosophy. Curran O’Malley, who trails Brown in endorsements but notably has the support of former Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski, recently hit her rival with an ad questioning his qualifications to be attorney general, point out that the congressman has “never tried a criminal case in Maryland.” And Curran O’Malley has argued that in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade and return the issue of abortion to the states, a woman ought to be Maryland’s top legal official.
“I’m tired of men saying they want to protect our rights,” she said at a recent campaign event. “We don’t need to be protected here in Maryland. We need to be elected not just in Maryland but all across our country — more women need to be in places of power where these decisions are being made.”
Brown, on the other hand, has leaned heavily on his legislative experience to argue that he’s the candidate best suited for the job. Responding to a debate attack by Curran O’Malley that the attorney general’s role was primarily focused on “the rule of law” and “not politics,” the congressman asserted that the attorney general “will spend more time in Annapolis working with legislators to reform and improve the law than he or she will ever spend in a court of law.”
He also argued that Curran O’Malley’s purported edge in judicial experience doesn’t carry much weight since her time as a judge was spent adjudicating cases at the district court level, where more minor cases are handled.
“Attorney generals don’t show up in district court,” Brown contended. “They’re in circuit court.” In Maryland, circuit courts hear serious criminal cases, such as felonies, as well as higher-level civil cases.
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Brown has endorsements from major Democratic figures including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (MA), Cory Booker (NJ), and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who represents Maryland’s 5th Congressional District. while his earlier poll lead over Curran O’Malley has apparently since evaporated, he continues to hold a financial advantage in the race.
Given the lack of much serious Republican competition and Maryland’s status as a typically Democratic state, the winner of the July 19 primary is expected to win the general election in November easily.
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