Attorney General Brian E. Frosh’s decision to not seek a third term in 2022 will likely make an unsettled state political landscape even more volatile.
“This is all going to be about, at this point, who does decide to get into the race for AG,” said Todd Eberly, a professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. “Do those folks getting into the race open up other seats that folks are going to turn to? Basically, you look for the domino effect this creates by people who decided to compete for this office. It’s all about watching the chain of events that occurs as people announce that they’re going to go for this.”
Frosh’s decision marks a unique moment in Maryland political history.
“I think his departure leaves a tremendous void in Maryland politics,” said Don Mohler, a Democratic former Baltimore County Executive and political observer. “I also think what we are going to see in the next few years is a real changing of the guard. You’ve got a number of senior officials who have been outstanding public servants. Many are at that point where they are ready to move on to the next phase of their journeys. What that does is open up a lot of opportunities for next generation leaders. It’s true for Democrats, and it’s true for Republicans.”
Rarely, if ever, has the state had all three statewide constitutional offices — governor, attorney general and comptroller — open without an incumbent seeking re-election. That alone guarantees a substantially different Board of Public Works even if Comptroller Peter Franchot is successful in his bid for governor.
“There’s a lot of change that’s going to be coming. It’s not like we haven’t gone through change already with the loss of (House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.),” said Eberly. “This is an unusually uncertain period. A lot of stuff is going to shuffle around.”
Within that uncertainty is opportunity, but some will have to give up their current seats to take advantage.
“It makes it exciting,” said Mileah Kromer, a political science professor at Goucher College and director of the Goucher Poll. “I don’t know if volatile is the word I’d use. I’d say competitive or hotly contested. I think it’s good to have some shake up. I think opportunities for change can be good. A contest of ideas is inherently good.”
Maryland enters a 2022 election marked by legislative redistricting. Final maps are expected early next year before the February filing deadline.
Already a number of lawmakers have announced their departure from the legislature either to retire or run for other offices.
Mohler said the changes will shake up Maryland’s traditional political stability.
“Maryland voters like stability, and they like candidates with whom they are familiar,” said Mohler. “They develop a comfort level and a sense of trust. Despite the quote un quote throw the rascals out, in Maryland it’s really anything but.”
Added to that uncertainty, and opportunity, are potential changes in the General Assembly and especially in the House of Delegates.
Treasurer Nancy Kopp announced Monday that she will retire by the end of the year before her term expires. The position is elected by the General Assembly and has been controlled by the delegates in the House, who outnumber the members of the the Senate 3-1.
Del. Dereck Davis, D-Prince George’s and chair of the House Economic Matters Committee, is a potential contender for that seat. His departure would leave open his seat in the House and leadership of the committee. One potential replacement to lead the committee is Del. C.T. Wilson, D-Charles.
Unrelated to Kopp’s departure are a number of other moves and retirements rumored in the House that could spark changes in a number of committees.
Maryland has never had a woman attorney general. There is no shortage of qualified women.
Del. Kathleen Dumais, D-Montgomery and vice chair of the House Economic Matters Committee, is under consideration for a judicial appointment. She is not looking at the attorney general’s race.
“I have now embarked on this path to being appointed to the circuit court for Montgomery County,” said Dumais. “I’m on this path and I hadn’t considered (attorney general) because I currently, wrongly, assumed Brian was running.”
Dumais, Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy could all be logical potential candidates for attorney general.
But those names aren’t at the top of most discussions about who could succeed Frosh.
Braveboy, a former two-term delegate who is completing her first full term as state’s attorney, said she’s been asked about the attorney general race.
“I have politely taken myself out of those conversations because I love the job I have and I want to send a strong message to my constituents that I love the job I have and want to continue doing it,” said Braveboy.
One of those conversations was with Rep. Anthony Brown, a Democrat who is said to be strongly interested in succeeding Frosh.
“I think he respects me and the work I am doing and that fact that I may have had an interest,” said Braveboy.
“I appreciated him reaching out to me and I think that’s the level of respect we as women want,” she said. “We don’t have to run every race. Ultimately what we want is the type of respect he showed me before making any decision and understanding the position I have and the strength and power that I have.”
Prince George’s Councilwoman Jolene Ivey, who was Doug Gansler’s lieutenant governor running mate in the 2014 primary, said as the bench of women candidates grows, the more likely it is that those candidates will run for statewide office.
For many in office now, other opportunities could be a factor.
“For specific women, there could be other options that are preferable to them personally,” said Ivey. “That’s one thing. The other is that men tend to push themselves forward even if they shouldn’t. Women look at it and might be more hesitant to put themselves in the limelight like that.”
Dumais said, “It’s disappointing that we’re not talking about women who are in the mix or the current mix at least,” said Dumais. “Part of the problem, absent someone being out front and early, raising money for a statewide campaign is daunting, particularly at this stage. That’s an issue and I think if we don’t have a woman running, we as the women who are in public office in Maryland need to get together and talk about this.”
Dumais said women in public office “don’t really have a backroom that decides who is running for office. What there is, the question is why wasn’t a woman recruited? There’s not really been any outreach to women to say, ‘if Brian doesn’t run who would?'”
Currently two men are said to be interested in the position: Brown and Sen. Will Smith, the chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Brown could make a decision as soon as next week, according to sources.
“An Anthony Brown and a Will Smith are both really strong candidates, clearly,” said Kromer, who lamented the lack of women candidates in the mix.
If elected, either would be the first Black attorney general in Maryland history.
Should both declare their candidacy, it would leave openings in the Maryland Senate and leadership of Smith’s committee as well as Maryland’s 4th Congressional District.
Del. Jazz Lewis, 32 and a senior policy adviser to Rep. Steny Hoyer, is considered a rising star in the House of Delegates. Sources said Lewis would strongly consider entering the race for Congress should Brown opt for attorney general.
Another potential candidate for attorney general is Democratic Del. Jon Cardin, who was defeated by Frosh in 2014.
“The position and the work that could be done, I’m very interested in,” said Cardin. “I’m in a different place in my life right now so I have to have very serious conversations with my wife, which I am going to do, before I make any decisions. I haven’t filed yet for re-election and so it’s an open question. It’s just not something I’ve thought enough about to give a definite answer.”