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Politics

Maryland attorney general race pits familiar faces, similar politics against each other

Primary elections are awkward enough for candidates who, more often than not, share mostly similar politics, a political party and a history of working together.

But when you’re running against the spouse of someone you shared a gubernatorial ticket with?

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“This one probably has to be the most awkward, and I’ll leave it at that,” U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown said in an interview with the Maryland State Bar Association when asked about his primary opponent.

Brown is running for attorney general against Katie Curran O’Malley, a retired Baltimore District Court judge and his former political running mate’s wife. As of now, they are the only two Democrats running for the office. The candidate filing deadline is March 22; Jim Shalleck and Michael Peroutka are running for the Republican nomination.

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Brown was lieutenant governor for eight years while Martin O’Malley held the governorship, and O’Malley endorsed Brown to replace him in Annapolis in the 2014 election. Gov. Larry Hogan beat Brown in a campaign in which Brown outspent him 4-to-1, mainly because of Hogan’s strict focus on economic issues.

Katie O’Malley, who spent two decades as a district court judge, is running for the same office her father, J. Joseph Curran Jr., held for 20 years.

With Democratic Attorney General Brian Frosh stepping down after eight years in office, O’Malley and Brown are vying for the nomination while campaigning on nearly identical platforms.

Both candidates, in their interviews with the state bar association, said that, if elected, they would focus on criminal justice reform and police accountability, defending Maryland’s environmental resources and generally working to protect all of the state’s residents from con artists and predatory business practices.

Both of them support legalizing recreational cannabis and have pledged to find ways to reduce gun violence in the state. Both said they would support expanded legal protections for tenants facing evictions, including providing attorneys at eviction hearings for tenants who need them.

They’ve even raised nearly the same amount of money — Brown reported total receipts of $646,984.92 to O’Malley’s $630,217.22, according to their most recent filings.

But there are some differences between them. Both candidates want to see the attorney general’s office be given the power to prosecute police misconduct (The Maryland General Assembly in 2021 charged the AG’s office with investigating all instances in which a police officer kills someone.), but Brown thinks state’s attorneys should have first right of refusal on whether to prosecute.

O’Malley thinks it’s important to have the attorney general prosecuting police misconduct alone or in concert with a state’s attorney’s office for transparency purposes.

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“Just to make sure that the public knows that it’s an independent investigation and is prosecuted independently of the police,” she said.

Rather than imposing stricter sentences for low-level gun crimes, Brown is in favor of creating special gun courts to handle those charges in a faster manner, something he says will deter people from more serious crimes.

“More important than the severity of the crime is the swiftness or speed of justice,” Brown said.

O’Malley said she would leverage preexisting partnerships with state and federal agencies to better coordinate prosecutions.

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Private attorney and former federal prosecutor Jim Shalleck is running against Michael Peroutka, a retired Anne Arundel County councilman and attorney who used to promote the idea that southern states should secede again.

Shalleck’s platform is centered around crime; the Montgomery County resident said he would push the attorney general’s office to have a heavier hand in prosecuting violent crimes, especially in Baltimore City.

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“No plea bargaining, no deals,” Shalleck previously said to The Sun.

The attorney general does not prosecute general crimes, but Shalleck said in an interview with the state bar association he would push the legislature to carve out an exception.

Typically, the attorney general is charged with defending the interests of Maryland and its residents, but Peroutka, also in an interview with the bar association, said he would opt not to litigate certain cases, such as ones dealing with same-sex marriage or abortion, depending on how they conflicted with his Christian worldview.

“There are two standards to determine if something is lawful,” he said, “not what a court says but whether it meets the constitutional limitations of government, and it has to be harmonious with God’s law.”

Maryland has not elected a Republican attorney general since 1952.

For the record

This story has been updated to report total receipts for the campaigns rather than just campaign contributions.


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