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When it comes to policy prescriptions, Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D) and retired Baltimore City District Court Judge Katie Curran O’Malley (D) have more in common than not.
Both agree that violent crime should be one of their priorities; that the office should partner with local state’s attorney’s offices when deciding to prosecute police officers; that government transparency through the Maryland Public Information Act needs to be expanded; and that more resources from the office need to be aimed toward the office’s civil rights and environmental protection units.
The most contentious question during a Wednesday evening forum was what kind of experience concocts the best candidate: legislative or prosecutorial?
The question hangs in the air as Maryland’s sitting Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D), who is retiring after a decades-long career in Maryland politics, has both.
Former First Lady Curran O’Malley, who spent 30 years in Baltimore City courtrooms — 10 of them as a prosecutor — said that the next attorney general needs to lead the office by experience.
“It’s just like a principal,” she told moderator and Maryland Reporter Editor Len Lazarick. “Do you want a principal who’s never been in a classroom?”
“ … That kind of experience you don’t give to others — you have to lead with that experience and that’s why I’m the better candidate for this job,” she continued.
Brown, who served as Maryland’s lieutenant governor under his opponent’s husband, former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), and as the majority whip and Judiciary Committee vice chair in the House of Delegates, said the experience of Maryland’s assistant attorneys general “far exceeds any of the candidates who are currently running.”
He said that the office needs someone who will be in Annapolis all 90 days of the legislative session to fight for the needs of the state’s top prosecutors.
“It doesn’t happen by politicians in an ivory tower,” said Brown. “It happens by people with legislative experience to get things done in Annapolis.”
Wednesday night’s forum was hosted by the League of Women Voters and co-sponsored by Maryland Matters, Maryland Reporter, Maryland Nonprofits, Maryland Latinos Unidos and the University of Baltimore’s Schaefer Center for Public Policy.
It was more lively than the Republican forum held Tuesday, which was only minutes long after attorney general candidate and former Anne Arundel County Councilmember Michael Anthony Peroutka was a no-show.
Both Brown and Curran O’Malley took turns name-dropping — the latter most notably mentioning her father, former Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. (D), and Brown noting his close connection to Frosh. They also spent time challenging each other’s backgrounds.
“I’m not running to be the chief lobbyist for the state of Maryland, I’m running to be the AG,” O’Malley said, knocking Brown’s experience as a legislator. “So having a good … relationship with the legislature is certainly very, very vital but that’s not something I’ll have a problem with. But knowing exactly how to try cases — when to try cases — is really vital.”
Brown pushed back, saying judges don’t know how to work a crowd as large as Maryland’s General Assembly.
“Judges and prosecutors … are making an argument to a jury of six to 12 people. You go to Annapolis, you’re making your case go 188 people,” Brown explained. “They represent all four corners of this state. They bring their own interests and priorities and you’re competing with that.”
Next Tuesday, Democratic candidates for comptroller, Bowie Mayor Timothy L. Adams and Baltimore City Del. Brooke E. Lierman, will appear in a virtual forum with the same sponsors at 7 p.m. Register here to watch that forum.