Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh announced Thursday that he will not run for reelection next year and will instead retire after two terms in the post.
Frosh, 75, called his tenure as attorney general “the most rewarding, fulfilling and, I believe, productive experience of my professional life” in a letter to staff Thursday morning announcing his decision. Frosh noted he still has more than a year left in office and plans to “make the most of every single moment.”
A Democrat from Montgomery County, Frosh was first elected attorney general in 2014. During his second term, Frosh became something of a legal crusader of the left, filing numerous lawsuits against the administration of former President Donald Trump, which drew him national attention. He attacked Trump’s restrictive immigration policies in lawsuits aimed at overturning Trump’s travel ban and hindering construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
On the state level, Frosh also has been a frequent critic of Gov. Larry Hogan and has clashed on several occasions with the Republican, who took office in the same year as Frosh.
“It’s probably the hardest decision I’ve made in my career. I love the job, I think I’m still firing on all cylinders, but I didn’t want to stay past my sell-by date, you know?” Frosh told The Baltimore Sun of his decision in an interview on Thursday. “I just thought that, at age 76, maybe it’s time to ratchet back a little and give somebody else a shot.”
Frosh has championed a number of progressive issues during his tenure in office, including pressing for stricter gun control measures and tougher enforcement of environmental rules. His office successfully lobbied for changes to Maryland’s cash bail system for criminal defendants — an issue he’d earlier raised as a lawmaker — and for an end to the state’s practice of suspending driver’s licenses over unpaid fines.
But he also has drawn occasional criticism from some progressive activists over his office’s role in a number of lawsuits, including representing controversial former Maryland Chief Medical Examiner David Fowler in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Anton Black, a Caroline County man who died during a struggle with police in 2018. Frosh, who contended state law left him little choice but to take on that case, launched a critical review of Fowler’s past work this spring.
Gray-haired, bespectacled and mustachioed, Frosh was widely viewed — despite some of the high-profile legal battles — as an affable and relatively low-key politician. He was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates from Montgomery County in 1986 and then to the Maryland Senate in 1994, where he served for two decades and rose to be chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
As a lawmaker, Frosh played a leading role in passing new restrictions on firearms after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Frosh said Thursday that he took particular pride in that legislation — calling it “one of the best gun safety laws in the nation” — and with his later role defending it against numerous court challenges.
Frosh helped usher other major pieces of legislation through the General Assembly, including abolishing the death penalty, and he pointed back to his role in the 1980s as sponsor of the Maryland Recycling Act and a law banning oil exploration in the Chesapeake Bay.
The Daily Record first reported news of Frosh’s decision late Wednesday night, citing sources who had spoken with Frosh ahead of his announcement.
Frosh was seen as a surefire candidate for reelection to a third term, had he chosen to run, and had drawn only a single challenger so far, Republican Jim Shelleck, a former prosecutor from Montgomery County.
His retirement will likely kick off jockeying among Democrats interested in succeeding him in the statewide position. Among the Democrats expected to consider a potential run to replace Frosh are state Sen. William C. Smith Jr. of Montgomery County, the current chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, and former lieutenant governor and current U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown of Prince George’s County.
Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, on Thursday called Frosh “a brilliant litigator, a defender of our core values of justice and fairness and our country’s moral compass that held an unrestrained Trump Administration accountable.”
Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore City Democrat, described Frosh as a mentor and friend who “fought to protect the most vulnerable and often over-looked communities.”
Frosh credited his interest in politics and public policy to his father, the late former Circuit Court Judge Stanley B. Frosh, an attorney and civil rights advocate who voted to integrate public facilities as a member of the Montgomery County Council from 1958 to 1962 and embraced alternative punishments from the bench.
Frosh said he plans to again fight for a pair of priorities in next year’s legislative session — a strict ban on untraceable firearms, often sold online in kits, known as “ghost guns,” and a steep increase in court fees for landlords filing eviction cases. He also hopes to remain involved in advocacy around a handful of issues even after leaving office.
“There’s still issues I care deeply about and hope to work on — climate change, poverty issues, gun safety — and I’m hoping I will be able to continue to make a contribution,” Frosh said.
Frosh is the second prominent Maryland official to announce plans to step down from office this week, following state Treasurer Nancy Kopp, who said Monday that she planned to retire by the end of the year after nearly two decades in the job.
Frosh and Kopp, a fellow Democrat, served together in the Maryland House of Delegates representing the same Montgomery County district.