Maryland attorney general race could come down to name vs. resume

Family name vs. resume.

That is what the race for the Democratic nomination for Maryland’s attorney general boils down to, said McDaniel College political science professor Herb Smith.

In what has the potential to be one of the closer – and unpredictable – state primaries on June 24, Del. Jon Cardin and state Sen. Brian Frosh are the clear front runners in the race to replace current Attorney General Doug Gansler. Del. Aisha Braveboy is also in the running for the nomination, a race which has become increasingly heated in recent weeks.

“Jon Cardin has the pedigree, but Frosh has the experience,” said Smith, referring to Cardin being the nephew of U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland).

Frosh, of Montgomery County, has nearly three decades of experience in the General Assembly, including 11 as chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle almost universally respect Frosh’s work, leading to endorsements from key figures such as Senate President Mike Miller and Gov. Martin O’Malley. His most recent campaign finance report also showed him with $860,000 available.

However, recent polls suggest Frosh will have his work cut out for him as Cardin is shown to be in the lead. A poll by The Baltimore Sun has Cardin with 26 percent support compared to 16 for Frosh and 7 percent for Braveboy with 42 percent undecided.

Local political analysts, including Smith, said Cardin’s famous last name gives him an advantage other candidates don’t have.

“If Cardin’s name was Jon Smith, he’d likely be polling around 10 percent,” said St. Mary’s political science professor Todd Eberly, who admits he’s backing Frosh. “Frosh’s credentials are just head and shoulders above the other candidates. I switched from independent to Democrat in this election just to vote for Frosh.”

More than a name

Jon Cardin, who reported having $485,000 on hand in his last campaign finance report, said his candidacy runs much deeper than his last name.

The Baltimore County Democrat has spent 12 years in the House of Delegates and has been a champion of attacking cyber crimes and child sex crimes.

This includes being the author and sponsor of “Grace’s Law,” named in honor of a Howard County teen, who killed herself after being bullied online. The law makes it a misdemeanor to repeatedly and maliciously use a computer or smartphone to bully someone under the age of 18.

“This race is about whom can best advocate for consumer protection, public safety, the environment and public safety,” said Cardin, 44. “There are many new threats facing residents today, including cyber hacking and revenge porn. You need a candidate that understands these evolving threats and has a vision to combat them.”

Using proper judgment

Frosh, 67, touts his decades of experience and his understanding of Maryland law. He said if elected, he would be harsher on polluters who are too often given a warning rather than a punishment. He would also work to prosecute those accused of identity theft, keep sexual predators off social networks and protect seniors from abuse and scams.

“I’ve worked hard to pass laws that protect Maryland’s environment, improves public safety and has a positive impact on those living in the state,” Frosh said. “But, those laws are only good if they can be enforced. That’s what I’m looking to do as attorney general.”

However, Frosh said it is vital that whoever is attorney general must have sound judgment, something he says Cardin has lacked on several occasions. This includes missing 75 percent of his votes in the House Ways and Means Committee this session.

Cardin was also heavily criticized in 2009 using Baltimore police resources as part of a marriage proposal prank. The prank involved Cardin using a friend’s boat when he convinced officers to board it as a Foxtrot helicopter hovered above the boat.  Cardin eventually paid the police $300 to the police department to cover the costs and donated $1,000 to the city's mounted unit.

Most recently, Cardin had to reject an endorsement and return a $100 donation of a local rapper – Lawrence “Ski Money” Christian – who is facing human-trafficking charges. Cardin posed with Christian during a photo taken at a recent fundraiser.

“In reality, no one is truly prepared to be attorney general until they become one,” Frosh said. “It is the biggest law firm in the state. But, I believe I am the one who is most well-equipped of any candidate to take over the office.

“The idea of a public official using public resources as part of an engagement prank is troubling and does not show someone who has the proper judgment to be attorney general. Plus, as a delegate – a part-time job – to miss three-quarters of his committee votes is inexcusable. I understand he said there was family issues involved, but others in similar circumstances were able to do the job the people voted them in to do.”

Cardin defended his voting record saying his absences – which he said was due to care for his

pregnant wife during her first trimester – did not impact the passage of any legislation. He also again apologized for using the city police in his marriage proposal.

“I always made sure my work as a legislator was accomplished and I represented the people in my district,” Cardin said. “I wanted to make sure I was there for my wife who had a rocky early pregnancy. If elected, I will be 100 percent committed to the work of the office.”

 Braveboy, a Prince George’s County lawmaker, 39, is concerned about minorities and the poor being taken advantage of through predatory business practices by banks and other financial institutions. If elected, she said helping homeowners avoid foreclosure would be among her top priorities.

As the next attorney general, I will encourage other attorneys around the state to step up to the plate and represent families on a pro boon basis so they can keep their homes,” said Braveboy during a recent debate broadcast on WOLB 1010-AM radio.

“Seventy or more percent of bank-owned homes have 10 or more deficiencies. When you have marketing deficiencies it leads to investors paying far less than fair market value. This takes away homeowners economic independence.  It used to be families could borrow off equity in homes to send their kids to college or start a business.  But, because of this economic injustice perpetrated by the banks here in this state and across the country, that type of economic independence is being taken away from Maryland families.”

Unpredictable race

Smith, the political science professor from McDaniel, said with the most recent poll in The Washington Post showing Frosh narrowing the gap, and a large portion of voters still undecided, anything can happen on Tuesday. The Post poll had Cardin with 26 percent support compared to 20 for Frosh and 13 for Braveboy.

“The race will really test the intelligence of Maryland voters,” Smith said. “Voter turnout is typically low in a non-presidential election and many are not even aware of the candidates in this race. If Frosh’s committed volunteer base gets people out to vote, then he can win. But, Cardin’s name recognition could go a long way in deciding who wins.”

The winner in the Democratic primary will face Republican attorney Jeffrey Pritzker in November's general election.