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Frosh first, but Frick far from finished

Del. C. William "Bill" Frick, D-Montgomery (Photo: Maryland State Archives)

In a small sampling of likely Democratic voters, a couple of Montgomery County lawmakers have emerged as the top contenders to replace Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler.

Sen. Brian E. Frosh — with the apparent support of much of Annapolis’ Democratic establishment — has been considered the frontrunner for months. But Del. C. William “Bill” Frick — who shares the 16th legislative district with Frosh — garnered 54 votes to Frosh’s 70 in a straw poll at the Western Maryland Democratic Summit last weekend.

Frick, who at 38 is 30 years Frosh’s junior, had raised $60,000 in campaign cash to Frosh’s $390,000 as of January. But Frick said Monday he is emboldened by his respectable showing out west, and has put together a team that is raising money across the state.

“I’m very serious,” Frick said, adding that he would not officially declare his candidacy unless Gansler announces he won’t seek another term as attorney general. Gansler told The Daily Record last week that such an announcement would probably come this fall.

Until then, Frick said he’d try to raise his profile outside of Montgomery County. Like Frosh, Frick says he’s excited about potentially enforcing some of the laws he’s helped the General Assembly craft.

“We have a lot of good, democratic legislation,” Frick said. “It’s the place you can give the kind of enforcement our laws deserve in the areas of consumer protections, and workers rights and be a champion of our businesses.”

Frick, a senior attorney at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, said the firm is “enthusiastically behind the campaign.” The firm was co-founded in 1945 by former Democratic National Committee Chairman Robert S. Strauss.

In another time or place, Frick or Frosh may have been able to count the other as a fervent supporter. The once-close relationship has become “awkward” at best, Bethesda Magazine reported last week, though neither lawmaker is eager to discuss the budding rivalry.

Frosh said Frick “put a lot of energy” into the Western Maryland summit event and “did a good job.” But Frosh, chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, said he was confident and pleased with the level of support he attained.

Sen. Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery (File Photo)

“It’s very early, but it’s still good to win,” he said.

Some have said the attorney general’s race is Frosh’s to lose, as long as Gansler runs for governor as expected.

But Todd Eberly, an assistant professor of political science and public policy at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said it’s more accurate to say whoever wins the Democratic nomination will be the favorite.

“So far, Republicans have not really been able to field credible candidates for AG,” Eberly said in a recent interview. “So, I think the biggest issue is getting through the nomination process.”

Frosh probably helped his case by ushering comprehensive gun control legislation through the Senate this year, Eberly said.

“If you’re Frosh, you’ve got to survive a Democratic primary, turnout in the Democratic primary is low and the people who do turn out are among the most liberal and committed members of the party,” he said. “He’s done nothing to hurt himself there. He’s perfectly positioned himself.”

Frick was also an early supporter of the hotly contested gun legislation, but as a member of the House of DelegatesWays and Means Committee, did not play a prominent public role in the bill’s passage.

Stacked against Frosh, some say that could create a name recognition problem for the lawmaker who has served in the House since 2007, but Frick brushed that notion aside.

“All legislators have a name recognition challenge,” he said.