The showdown between Brown and O’Malley in the Maryland AG primary has a long history

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Congressman Anthony G. Brown and former judge Katie Curran O’Malley both remember their first meeting. It was the night before O’Malley’s husband, Martin O’Malley, then Baltimore mayor and gubernatorial candidate, announced that Brown would join his ticket as lieutenant governor.

The O’Malleys invited the Browns to a casual dinner before the announcement.

“She was a very gracious hostess and it was a very enjoyable evening,” Brown said.

“He’s adorable and his family is adorable,” O’Malley recalled.

But that was 2005, and they are now on opposing teams, heading into the home stretch of a close primary battle seeking the Democratic nomination to be Maryland’s next attorney general. While Brown and O’Malley always express their admiration for each other, they also make it clear that their approach is best suited to the job of being Maryland’s law enforcement chief.

The race couldn’t be closer. A Goucher College poll released last week showed a statistical stalemate with 35% of voters undecided on who should replace Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D), who announced he would not run again the year last after two terms. The winner will face in November Jim Shalleck or Michael Peroutka, the candidates for the Republican primary.

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There is little that differentiates Brown’s and O’Malley’s positions on most major issues, including abortion rights and gun violence. The question is who is most ready to take on the role, and that’s where the niceties end.

“The congressman is a legislator, he’s a politician,” O’Malley, 59, said of Brown. “But for this job, Attorney General, the constitution requires that you have real legal experience in courtrooms. And I’m the only one who really brings that to the table. … I think it is important, especially in light of rising crime, that your Attorney General can strategize with MPs and assistant attorneys general when it comes to prosecuting drug traffickers, human traffickers, and firearms trafficking cases. And can also strategize on ways to sue gun makers and gun shop owners.

A graduate of Towson University and the University of Baltimore School of Law, O’Malley says her 30 years of experience as an assistant state attorney, heading the white-collar crime and as a Baltimore district judge give him the tools for the job. requests.

O’Malley points to Brown’s lack of campaign experience. In an ad posted late last month, she looks into the camera and says, “My opponent, Anthony Brown, is a great congressman, but he’s never tried a criminal case in Maryland and he hasn’t not have the necessary experience for this job.I will be ready to fight for you from day one.

Brown, 60, earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard and served as a military attorney in the Army and Army Reserve for 30 years before retiring as a colonel. He rejects O’Malley’s assertion about the importance of courtroom experience for the job.

The idea that “having extensive trial experience is a key characteristic of being an attorney general, I would say you don’t understand the responsibilities of the office or the organization of the office,” said Brown, whose resume includes two terms at Maryland House. delegates, two terms as state lieutenant governor, and three terms as a congressman representing Maryland’s 4th district.

“The work that needs to be done in Maryland to solve big problems requires a partnership between the executive branch, including the attorney general’s office, and the General Assembly,” he said. “In my practice, unlike Justice O’Malley, I have been involved in complex litigation, multi-party litigation, class actions. … And these are more the types of cases that the Attorney General deals with. It’s a big dispute. … The Attorney General’s office is not in small claims court, they are not in traffic court, they are not committing petty crimes.

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In interviews last week, both candidates said the biggest issue for Marylanders in 2022 is rising crime and how to respond to it. They also said the attorney general should take a key role in combating gun violence, protecting abortion rights and civil rights, strengthening environmental regulations and prosecuting polluters. Both have said that when it comes to abortion rights, they want to enshrine the protections of Roe vs. Wade in the constitution of Maryland.

Although many of their positions on the issues are similar, the different styles of candidates provide choice for voters, said D. Bruce Poole, former chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party and former member of the Maryland House of Delegates.

“They’re both very well-qualified and well-liked,” said Poole, who has known Brown and O’Malley for many years and sees unique strengths in each of them. For voters, he says, “it depends on what you want.”

“Anthony is going to be very good at coming down to the State House and operating the levers of power. And if he were to go to the Capitol, I imagine he would be very well received. In terms of actual trial work, I imagine he should go to a team and build a team for that,” he said. “Katie, on the other hand, understands what it’s like to be in the pit and to fight. She’s a friendly person, but she’s made of steel. And so if it’s fixed bayonets, she’ll be fine with that. On the other hand, working in the legislature, I guess she will have to take the advice of a few others.

Whichever candidate wins, the winner will likely be on a historic path. Brown would be the first African American to serve as Maryland’s attorney general. O’Malley would be the first woman. The winner of the Democratic primary has not lost the race for attorney general in a general election since 1952.

Republicans Shalleck, the former Montgomery County election chief, and Peroutka, a former Anne Arundel County Council member, are on their party’s primary ballot but trail Democrats far behind in funds raised . By mid-June, Brown had $1.2 million to spend, while O’Malley had nearly $839,000.

The last time Brown competed in a Maryland statewide race was when he ran for governor in 2014 and lost to Larry Hogan. But running for attorney general and winning a statewide office isn’t about asking to buy out that failed bid, Brown said.

“I see it as a continuum in life,” he said. “You take your skills, your experience, your talent. You combine that with your passion and commitment, and you apply it where the opportunities present themselves.

This is O’Malley’s first run for office, although she has been immersed in politics since she was young. Her husband served two terms as mayor of Baltimore and two terms as governor. And his father, J. Joseph Curran Jr., served one term as lieutenant governor and 20 years as attorney general of Maryland.

“I’ve known politicians all my life,” she says. “I am married to one, and I was raised by one. So I think I have the skills to communicate effectively as an Attorney General when talking about laws that need to be enforced.

Both candidates enjoy strong notoriety and have “deep roots in establishment Democratic politics,” said Mileah Kromer, a political scientist at Goucher College. “So it’s not like there’s a dynamic between insiders and outsiders.”

She thinks how candidates communicate their positions on abortion and gun control, two key issues in the state, could affect who wins. But with Election Day on July 19 fast approaching, she thinks the race is likely to come down to the best-prepared campaign.

“At this point, that’s how much each of the campaigns can do to reach out to voters,” Kromer said. “It’s going to be super important, and it’s not just going to be a test of the candidates but a test of the campaign organization that they’ve put together. … One thing that makes this race so interesting is that they are both really capable candidates.

Both Brown and O’Malley recognize they are in a hotly contested race, and observers say it would be foolish at this point to predict a winner.

“It’s going to come down to the last 72 hours,” Poole said. Laughing, he added, “Anyone who says they know for sure what’s going to happen has just demonstrated their incompetence in the matter.”

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