After a bruising primary contest in which he spent more than $1.5 million, Democrat Brian Frosh has less than $80,000 left for his campaign to be Maryland attorney general.
The problem for his two general election opponents? Combined, they have less than $2,000.
Yet the two men — Republican Jeffrey N. Pritzker, a Towson attorney, and Libertarian Leo Wayne Dymowski, a Maryland Parole Commission hearing officer, say they're bringing new ideas to the race and present an attractive alternative for frustrated voters who want to send a message about the Democrats' grip on high-ranking state posts.
"There's no way I will be able to catch up financially," says Pritzker, who ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in 2002. "We're just trying to get the message out. I think it's going to be a Republican year. I think the winds are blowing in the right direction for us."
Pritzker, 65, says he got into the race because he saw current Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, a Democrat, take no action about the botched rollout of Maryland's health exchange, in which Pritzker believes millions in taxpayer dollars were wasted. He says if elected, his first action would be to investigate what went wrong.
"The attorney general did absolutely nothing to try to recover the money for the people of Maryland," Pritzker said. "We need an attorney general who is going to look out for the citizens."
Pritzker also wants to undertake a study of state rules and regulations that he believes are overly burdensome on Maryland businesses. He says the attorney general has the power to modify and streamline such rules, encouraging economic growth.
"I want to make Maryland more business-friendly," Pritzker says. "A lot of regulations, the way they're interpreted affect business people adversely."
Dymowski, 58, says his campaign is largely about one thing: ending Maryland's war on drugs. He says if elected he would refuse to represent the state in any case involving a nonviolent drug offender and would advise other agencies against enforcing such laws. While local state's attorneys typically prosecute such cases, the attorney general's office represents the state in appeals.
"My campaign is a symbolic campaign," he says. "I'm not a lunatic. I know I'm not going to win. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Something has to change. This is the time to send a message."
Despite his opponents' lack of funds, Frosh, a veteran Montgomery County state senator, says he's taking the general election every bit as seriously as he did the primary. Frosh came from behind to defeat Del. Jon S. Cardin of Baltimore County in a bare-knuckled, often negative campaign.
"I'm not taking it for granted," Frosh says of his current race. "I've never run for statewide office before. I'm still introducing myself to voters."
Frosh says he's also stepped up his efforts to support other Democrats, traveling throughout the state to appear at their fundraisers and campaign events.
"I've gotten a bunch of requests, and I try to make as many as I possibly can," he says. "I think I'm more of a help now than I was in the primary."
Frosh, 68, has argued that voters should pick Maryland's next attorney general based on experience — his 28 years in the General Assembly, 11 of them as the Judicial Proceedings Committee chairman who pushed through measures such as the state's new gun control law.
He successfully sponsored measures to promote the cleanup of contaminated sites known as "brownfields," ban oil drilling in the Chesapeake Bay and establish a statewide recycling program. He also helped pass legislation intended to protect domestic-violence victims from gun attacks.
Frosh has been endorsed by a wide range of lawmakers from across the state as well as public safety groups and environmental organizations. Former state attorneys general J. Joseph Curran Jr. and Stephen H. Sachs both back Frosh.
Pritzker says he has "a lot of respect" for Frosh. But as he travels the state with GOP gubernatorial nominee Larry Hogan, Pritzker says he has found many voters are fed up with Gov. Martin O'Malley's policies and want a change from Democrats.
"Mr. Frosh happens to be a very good person," he says. "But politically he's part of the problem. We have a Democratic monopoly in power. There is absolutely no balance whatsoever. There are no checks. I can offer independence in that office."
Frosh says he plans to be an "unbiased arbiter" of state legal disputes in office. He says he doesn't believe there is as much anti-O'Malley sentiment among voters as the Republicans think.
"Governor O'Malley has done a good job," Frosh says. "Look at marriage equality and the gun safety act," issues Frosh said required a lot of political effort to push into law. "I think people have come to appreciate that. I'd be surprised if there was a huge O'Malley backlash."
State GOP director Joe Cluster says his minority party struggles to raise money for multiple statewide races.
"We are a small party in a very blue state," Cluster says. "Do we have the resources to run an effective statewide campaign except for Larry Hogan? I would love to go after Frosh, but it's a resource issue. There could be Democrats going down all over the place if we had more resources."
Todd Eberly, an assistant professor of political science at St. Mary's College, says Pritzker and Dymowski have little chance of defeating Frosh. Even so, he says, Pritzker's candidacy plays an important role for the state Republican Party. He says Pritzker and Republican comptroller candidate William H. Campbell's presence on the ballot helps down-ticket Republicans because conservative-leaning voters won't write off the party as so impotent it can't even field candidates for office.
"The reality for the Republican Party in this state is it has to field credible candidates for all top-of-the-ticket offices, knowing that most are going to lose," Eberly says. "They are good candidates. They are qualified candidates. But in some ways they are sacrificial lambs. If you're a Republican-leaning voter and you see a bunch of uncontested races, you might think, 'Why even show up to vote?'"
Brian E. Frosh
Job: State senator, lawyer in private practice
Home: Chevy Chase
Family: Married, two daughters
Jeffrey N. Pritzker
Job: Partner at Margolis, Pritzker Epstein & Blatt, P.C.
Family: Married, four adult children
Leo Wayne Dymowski
Job: Hearing officer, Maryland Parole Commission
Family: Married, no children