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C. Fraser Smith: For A.G., there’s Frosh and guy with a name

Listen up.

That guy with the familiar name is not running for attorney general of Maryland. It’s not Ben Cardin, the U.S. senator. He’s not resigning from the greatest deliberative body in the world. He’s not on the ballot. Check it out.

Your friend Ben (as his campaign signs put it) is a thoroughly decent, smart man who has served Maryland as well as any elected official in recent memory.

But, again, he’s not running for attorney general. Probably never gave it a thought. Would have been a good one, but it was not really on his radar.

He’s a guy like Brian Frosh, a hardworking, long-serving, mature public servant whose record is virtually peerless.

Brian Frosh actually is running for attorney general.

There is, to be sure, someone named Cardin in the race. But it’s not Ben. Ben’s not running this year. (Or did I mention that?) The other Cardin, Jon, left the House of Delegates to run. His platform? His last name. Ben’s his uncle.

Maybe you remember Jon. He’s the guy who arranged for a police helicopter to help him propose to his wife. Honestly. It’s that guy. Jon. Not Ben.

I make a point of marking the difference because apparently a lot of Marylanders don’t know it’s not Ben. Polls have shown Jon running ahead of the field even though he has a pretty run of the mill record. Really, there’s not much else to recommend him. Except for his last name.

It’s a shame really, if not a joke, to think that a guy can vault out of nowhere and suddenly leads the field in a race for an important job. Nothing illegal about that leap at all.

It works sometimes. People don’t always pay much attention — until the end of a campaign. Even then, many will think only about whom to support for governor or president. So if there’s a chance to take advantage of a famous name, some people will try to jump the line.

Finally, it must be said, Ben is actually running, in a sense. Like it or not, Jon’s race is a referendum on Ben. If Jon wins, it was all about Ben. But his image doesn’t need burnishing. What he’s doing is marshaling support for his nephew. Nothing illegal about that either.

He’s been urging Democratic members of Maryland’s congressional delegation to endorse his nephew. Not clear how that’s going so far, but it’s early in this shortened campaign. The most important endorsement would be the one from Sen. Cardin himself, a very discerning man, who apparently sees real talent in Jon.

What it is is family, says someone who knows both Cardins. If so, that would be a relief.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone, including the senator, would think Jon is superior to Brian Frosh. Aside from the governor, the House speaker and the Senate president, a good argument could be made for Frosh as the most important and effective legislator in Annapolis. Cardin might not make a list of the top 50. Many others wouldn’t make that list either, but they’re not running for attorney general.

Frosh has been a leader in the assembly almost from his first days there. His skill as a consensus-builder, his maturity and professionalism should have made him the pre-emptive favorite in this race. Inside State Circle, that would surely be the case. Outside it, not so much — though many groups are coming together to show Brian Frosh they get it.

So if you if you think we need the best available lawyer in this job, give a thought to working for Brian Frosh. Make some phone calls. Get a road sign and wave it in your neighborhood.

“Frosh for Attorney General.”

The other guy? What’s his name?

It’s not Ben.

C. Fraser Smith is senior news analyst at WYPR-FM. His column appears Fridays in the Daily Record. His email address is [email protected]