Whether or not you pay any attention to the daily workings of the Maryland Attorney General's office, you are no doubt familiar with the front runner in this year's election. Or you may think you are. Truth be told, what you're familiar with is his last name.

So I'm begging anyone voting in the Democratic primary to pay attention. And that means voting for the most qualified candidate. I believe that is state Sen. Brian Frosh. But please don't take my word for it. Google his name and read about his record. And while you're at it, look up Del. Aisha Braveboy, too. I don't believe she has Senator Frosh's experience, but she's certainly qualified — definitely one to watch.

By now, anyone following this contentious race knows the only thing for which leading candidate Del. Jon Cardin has a record for is poor judgment. This Baltimore County resident with the gift of a famous last name is so entitled he thought it would fly under the radar when he used scarce Baltimore City resources to stage an elaborate marriage proposal. (Personally, if my boyfriend got a SWAT team to terrify me during a leisurely boat outing on the Inner Harbor, I think my next move would be a restraining order, engagement ring be damned.)

During this time, my neighbors were the victims of a home invasion, and my own home was burglarized. My alarm called the city police, but they failed to notice the broken window or the wide-open front door. Not that Delegate Cardin's diversion of city cops had anything to do with that, but surely the police had something they should have been attending to other than potentially making the future wife of a state legislator wet her pants. I am appalled that Mr. Cardin was so blasé about stealing resources from people who truly need them. The lesser Cardin may not be expected to show up for committee votes, but as a city resident, I do expect the police to be available to actually fight crime.

Mr. Cardin got away with this by paying the shockingly low bill of $300 presented to him by the city. Wow, can I hire a bevy of on-duty police with helicopters and boats for that price? Because I think I'd like for them dress as the Village People and do a jig to "YMCA" for the pleasure of the attendants at my next party. That's cheaper than a disc jockey!

More disturbing is the fact that the would-be attorney general didn't feel it necessary to even show up at 120 out of 164 committee votes this year. He pooh-poohed this away by claiming his vote wasn't needed. Which prompts one to ask, if we don't need his votes, why would we need him? Will our next attorney general expect others to pick up his slack when he or she decides to enjoy some family time? Or use the office as a platform for yet higher office? Because after all, Uncle Ben Cardin is going to retire one day.

Seriously, folks, more than 90 percent of life is showing up. Voters in the 11th District essentially hired Cardin the Younger to at least show up, which he failed to do 75 percent of the time. And when he was there, his record has been described, somewhat charitably, as lackluster. I'd use the word abysmal. Shortly after he was elected to the House of Delegates, a fellow reporter of mine at the newspaper where I worked interviewed him about his plans, and among them was getting an Amber Alert law for Maryland. Which would be nice — if we hadn't already had one. The pity was that several more qualified candidates ran for that office, people with long records of accomplishment in Democratic politics in Maryland. People without a famous last name. But there's nothing to be done about that. There is, however, something to be done now.

Maryland has a part-time legislature, and Mr. Cardin, who was wholly ignorant of state law going in, couldn't show up three-quarters of the time for only three months of the year. And he is not the only legislator to have a wife going through "a rocky first trimester." What does Mr. Cardin have to say to the female legislators who have served while pregnant themselves? The rest of us have to apply for Family Medical Leave if we need extended time off for illness. And we don't get paid.

Adding insult to injury, Mr. Cardin took his full meal allowance even when he didn't bother to show up in Annapolis — funded by your tax dollars. He said he was entitled. Legally, maybe, but do you really want Maryland's lead attorney taking such morally ambiguous actions with impunity? This is the person we want deciding whom to prosecute, representing the governor, the state and our laws in court?

As the ex-wife of a delegate, I truly understand that holding public office is a sacrifice. Running for office is a perpetually looming burden and election years are just plain grueling. Quite frankly, it wasn't for me. But for those who do stay the course, they know they will be overworked and under-loved. They know most elected on the local or state level will not likely go on to national political glory. They know during election years and when the legislature is in session they will be away from their families, and it isn't easy. They know, and they — and their families — soldier on anyway. They keep showing up.

And now Mr. Cardin is just plain wounded that Mr. Frosh had the nerve to point out his opponent's obvious weaknesses. Mr. Cardin called it an attack on his family. Seriously? If he's that thin-skinned, he has no place in public office. Worse yet, Mr. Cardin has repeatedly misrepresented Mr. Frosh's record on a number of bills, in the press and in a whiny fact-challenged rant on his website.

So now an empty suit of a delegate with what can only be described as an abysmal record serving the 11th District wants to be Maryland's lead attorney. Mr. Cardin has skated this long on his family's good name, buoyed by Delegates Dana Stein and Dan Morhaim, both of whom have distinguished records in the House of Delegates. Mr. Stein has three kids under the age of seven and runs a major nonprofit but managed to show up. Mr. Morhaim is an emergency room physician and he showed up, too.

In the end, I believe people who do not pay attention get the elected officials they deserve. But the rest of us suffer. The fact is, you don't get paid to merely run for office. You get paid to serve. You get paid to show up.

Mr. Cardin didn't do the first important job Marylanders handed him. Don't reward him with a better one — where he'll be expected to show up for 12 months, not just three. This pompous, entitled state legislator has distinguished himself not as a lawmaker but rather as a great candidate for a reality TV show. Call it "My Big Fat Crazy Proposal" or "(Not) Eating in Annapolis on $50 a Day."

We fought a war to get rid of the monarchy. So let's not let self-appointed local political royalty dictate who holds public office. Jon Cardin doesn't use his votes wisely but that doesn't mean the rest of us can't. Vote for someone who is actually qualified. Vote for someone who shows up.

Melissa Goldman, Baltimore

-
To respond to this letter, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.