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Former Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler joins 2022 Democratic field for governor

Douglas F. Gansler, a former Democratic state attorney general, is making another attempt to become Maryland governor.

Gansler, 59, has largely been out of the public eye since 2014, following a rocky run for his party’s nomination for governor. He said now that voters are not interested in past “political shenanigans” that caused that campaign to struggle, such as concern over his visit to a beach party where teenagers were drinking.

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In his comeback try, Gansler is seeking to position himself as a candidate with the experience needed to run state government and the ability to enact progressive policies. He planned to launch his campaign Tuesday with a 2-minute introductory video splashed across social media.

“During COVID, I had the opportunity to talk to people to hear what they had to say and reflect on what I can contribute as we come out of this challenge,” Gansler said Monday in an interview.

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He thinks that the deadly and stressful coronavirus pandemic offers something of a “clean slate” for Maryland to address social and racial inequities that became more apparent in the past year.

It’s time, Gansler said, for a “progressive Democrat” to take the helm in Maryland to promote values such as improving education, fighting climate change and adjusting the tax system so that corporations pay taxes on all their work in the state. He also proposes legalizing and taxing marijuana for recreational use.

And, he said, there’s an opportunity for the state government to more firmly commit to supporting Baltimore as the city works to turn around its problems with deadly violence and underperforming schools. The current Republican governor, Larry Hogan, has not partnered with nor sufficiently supported the city, Gansler argued.

“If we have four more years or eight more years of Republican leadership, Baltimore will continue to decline and the Democratic and progressive causes we have will be buried,” Gansler said.

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Gansler was elected to two terms as state’s attorney for Montgomery County, and then two terms as state attorney general while Democrat Martin O’Malley was governor.

He promotes himself as a potential ally for Baltimore leaders and activists. He said he’s influenced by having worked in Baltimore (the attorney general’s office is in the city), by having friends in the city, and by the Saturday mornings he’s spent teaching boys and girls the foundations of lacrosse through the Charm City Youth Lacrosse League.

“There’s a real need for bold leadership from the governor to work with the mayor and the stakeholders to realize the promise in the city,” Gansler said.

Gansler’s first attempt at becoming governor in 2014 faced challenges. Just weeks after launching his campaign in 2013, The Baltimore Sun published a photograph of Gansler at the post-high school graduation party in Delaware earlier that year where there were signs of underage drinking. When Gansler stopped by to speak to his son, who was one of the teens at the party, red plastic cups were scattered about. Partygoers later confirmed to The Sun that they had been drinking.

Gansler initially said it wasn’t his duty to intervene, either as a parent or in his role as attorney general. Later, Gansler said that not investigating whether the young people were drinking was “a mistake that I made.”

Doug Gansler, then-attorney general of Maryland, (white shirt with cellphone, right of center) is seen in a photo posted to Instagram from a 2013 senior week party in Delaware.
Doug Gansler, then-attorney general of Maryland, (white shirt with cellphone, right of center) is seen in a photo posted to Instagram from a 2013 senior week party in Delaware.

He also stumbled during the campaign when he suggested one of his opponents — Anthony Brown, then lieutenant governor and now a congressman — was relying on his Black heritage to get elected and that Brown’s military service wasn’t “a real job.” And Gansler faced allegations he had ordered state troopers on his security detail to drive recklessly.

Gansler finished second to Brown, who is considering running again for governor in 2022. Brown lost to Hogan in the general election.

Gansler said his loss — Brown even beat him in his home county of Montgomery — was humbling.

“It’s like getting an ice bucket of water poured over my head,” he said.

He said he thinks the drama over the beach party, the troopers and the like is in the past and not important to voters now. In meet-and-greets Gansler has been doing in the past couple of months, “not once has any of that political shenanigans come up,” he said.

Voters are more interested in how to fix problems and move the state forward, Gansler said.

“These times demand serious people coming together to put bold solutions on the table,” he said.

Then-Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, from left, then-Del. Heather Mizeur and then-Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler stand together before the start of a Democratic gubernatorial debate at Maryland Public Television in 2014.
Then-Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, from left, then-Del. Heather Mizeur and then-Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler stand together before the start of a Democratic gubernatorial debate at Maryland Public Television in 2014. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun)

Gansler returned to private law practice in 2014 and has worked since 2019 at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft in Washington, where he is a partner. He intends to continue working there as he starts his campaign.

Gansler said he has a track record as a progressive problem-solver, from launching drug courts in Montgomery County to deciding as attorney general to recognize same-sex marriages from other states years before Maryland passed a marriage equality law.

In addition to Gansler, announced candidates for the Democratic nomination include state Comptroller Peter Franchot, former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and John B. King, a federal education secretary under former President Barack Obama.

The best-known Republican candidate is Kelly Schulz, who serves as state commerce secretary under Hogan. State law limits Hogan to two four-year terms.

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