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AG Frosh will not seek re-election next year, sources say

Attorney General Brian E. Frosh Wednesday told close associates that he will not seek re-election in 2022. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh will not seek a third term, multiple sources told The Daily Record.

The attorney general made a number of calls to key officials and supporters Wednesday to inform them he will not run in 2022, the sources said.

Frosh did not immediately respond to requests for comment. He confirmed his decision in an announcement Thursday.

Frosh, 75, was first elected to the office in 2014 and easily won re-election four years later. Rumors have swirled for weeks about Frosh’s political future. His decision would add another wrinkle to what is likely to be a chaotic election year.

Sen. Will Smith, D-Montgomery and chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, and Rep. Anthony Brown, the former lieutenant governor, are reported to be interested in the position.

Most political figures contacted Wednesday night declined to comment about Frosh’s decision, indicating they wanted to wait for a formal announcement from the attorney general.

But U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland and a longtime associate of the attorney general who served as Raskin’s mentor when both were in the state Senate, praised Frosh’s tenure in office.

“Generations to come will marvel at attorney general’s luminous integrity and magnificent public service,” Raskin said. “His unshakable commitment to the public interest sets an imperishable standard for that office.”

Frosh campaigned for attorney general in 2014 pledging to be “the people’s lawyer” and began his tenure in 2015 by enforcing and defending laws he championed during his more than quarter century in the General Assembly, including gun control and environmental protection.

His early victories included defeating a federal court challenge from gun rights advocates who argued that the Maryland Firearm Safety Act’s prohibition on possession of assault style weapons violates the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Both the U.S. District Court and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the 2013 law, which Frosh had drafted and shepherded through the General Assembly while chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, a position he held for a dozen years.

The Supreme Court declined without comment to hear the gun rights advocates appeal.

As attorney general, Frosh also sought to end what he called the “criminalization of poverty” in which low-income Marylanders could be jailed for failing to pay fines they could not afford.

He found success in his effort to curtail cash bail, which he called a violation of due process for those too poor to pay the price to stay out of jail prior to trial. He successfully advocated for a rule, approved by Maryland’s top court, that ensures bail is only ordered as a last resort to ensure a defendant’s attendance at trial.

During the pandemic, Frosh convened a task force to ensure “access to justice” for Marylander hard hit financially but still in need of legal representation to protect their housing and employment and to secure public assistance.

He lobbied for a law that would give tenants a right to counsel in eviction proceedings. That proposal fell short during the last General Assembly session, though lawmakers enacted a measure providing that tenants have access to counsel.

Frosh, a Columbia University law school graduate and civil attorney during his years in private practice, urged his fellow lawyers last summer to do their part to help low-income Marylanders.

“The privilege of our professional expertise comes with responsibility,”  Frosh said in July. “We have folks in dire need of legal help. We hope that every single member of the bar will step up.”

Frosh, widely regarded as a moderate Democrat in the legislature, drew Republican scorn in 2017 when he successfully lobbied the legislature to expand the attorney general’s statutory authority and allow him to sue the federal government without permission from the governor or General Assembly. Frosh said the authority was needed to protect the state from President Donald Trump, whose presidency the attorney general called “chaotic.”

Frosh, with District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, subsequently sued Trump, alleging that he was violating the Constitution’s anti-corruption provision by steering business from visiting foreign and domestic dignitaries to his Trump International Hotel in Washington. Trump’s alleged violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause — receiving profits while in office — harmed nearby Maryland lodging establishments by stealing business from them.

The case drew criticism from many who viewed the attorney general’s suit as an inappropriate partisan attack on Trump rather than a legal effort to protect the interests of Maryland residents.

The lawsuit essentially died with the end of Trump’s presidency.

Frosh refused to join a settlement that 15 states reached with Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, over its role in the opioid epidemic. Frosh has appealed a bankruptcy judge’s approval of the plan, saying it fails to hold the Sackler family, owner of Purdue Pharma, accountable for the harm its medication caused.