In his first moments in office, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh warned that budget cuts would impair the ability of state lawyers to do their jobs and reduce their ranks.
Frosh was sworn in Tuesday afternoon as Maryland's 44th attorney general, making him the state's chief lawyer and enforcer of consumer and environmental protection laws.
During a ceremony in Annapolis punctuated with standing ovations and whoops of support, Frosh pledged to go after "polluters" and those who cheat seniors, and to be an advocate for open government and transparency.
But Frosh cautioned that years of budget cuts — and more he expects are coming — would likely cause reductions in staff at an agency that already does not have enough people.
"Every year we say bravely that we will do more with less," Frosh said. "The truth is that we will do less with less."
Frosh, a Democrat, takes over from Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who held the post for eight years and gave it up to make an unsuccessful run for governor. Both are Democrats.
The attorney general is the state's top lawyer, charged with advising the governor and the legislature as well as defending the state in court. Over the past two decades, the office has increasingly taken on a consumer protection and environmental watchdog role. Gansler also used his office to help shape public policy. For instance, two years before the Maryland General Assembly legalized same-sex marriage, Gansler in 2010 issued a formal opinion that such marriages performed elsewhere were considered legal here.
Frosh, 68, won the job in a landslide in November and leaves behind a 28-year career in the legislature. As a lawmaker, Frosh earned a reputation as a soft-spoken and level-headed negotiator. He rose to prominence as an environmentalist but in later years was best known for chairing the influential Judicial Proceedings Committee in the Senate.
He played a key role in passing Gov. Martin O'Malley's signature gun control law in 2013. O'Malley administered the oath of office Tuesday, listing Frosh's many legislative accomplishments and praising Frosh for his "wisdom and integrity."
"Time and again, Brian, you have taken a bold stance on the toughest of issues, and you've done so with integrity and with character," O'Malley said.
Former attorney general Stephen Sachs, a longtime friend and ally of Frosh, noted that the new attorney general's signature facial hair made history.
"After more than a century of boring, clean-shaven attorney generals, the mustache is back," Sachs said.
Sachs also drew attention to the friction between Frosh and Republican Gov.-elect Larry Hogan, pausing during his speech in the House chamber to search for Hogan and noting the absence.
Frosh helped lead a panel of state lawmakers investigating political appointments that Hogan oversaw during the Ehrlich administration. Both men recently have said they hope to have a good working relationship in their new roles. Frosh joked Tuesday that they had met for lunch and "we found common ground right from the beginning. We both had Caesar salad."
Hogan spokeswoman Erin Montgomery said the governor-elect had to decline an invitation to attend because he "had a day chock full of meetings. … He sends his heartfelt congratulations."
Until recently, Frosh was a partner in a Rockville law firm. Gansler announced in November he would join the Washington law firm of BuckleySandler, working in its cybersecurity and privacy practice.