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Elections

Maryland attorney general primary: O’Malley, Brown spar over legal experience in new ‘dark money’ TV ad

Political animosity between U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown and retired judge Katie Curran O’Malley reached a new level with O’Malley calling Brown a hypocrite over a new TV attack ad airing in the state.

The ad, from VoteVets Political Action Committee, accuses O’Malley of dismissing Brown’s experience as a lawyer. VoteVets is a political PAC supporting progressive candidates with military experience.

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“Anthony’s Brown’s new dark money attack ad trying to shame me for telling the truth is the ultimate hypocrisy,” O’Malley told The Baltimore Sun. Dark money is a term referencing how some PACs, like VoteVets, are not required to disclose their donors.

Brown and O’Malley are both running in the Democratic primary to replace Democrat Brian Frosh as Maryland’s attorney general. Each would be a historic first if elected in November: Brown as the state’s first Black attorney general or O’Malley as the first woman to hold the office in Maryland.

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The primary is the de facto general election: Maryland has not elected a Republican attorney general since Alexander Armstrong in 1919. The GOP candidates this year are Michael Peroutka and Jim Shalleck.

The Democratic candidates know each other well: Brown was lieutenant governor when Martin O’Malley, the former judge’s husband, was governor.

Despite agreeing on most major policy issues — like strengthening consumer and environmental protections, making guns harder to purchase and expanding the agency’s criminal prosecution capabilities — the candidates have started attacking each other over their legal experience, or perceived lack thereof.

O’Malley’s hypocrisy accusation comes after Brown, on Twitter, accused her of “mudslinging” in a TV ad that started airing June 24. In that ad, O’Malley said Brown “is a fine congressman,” but stated he had never tried a criminal case in Maryland and does not have “the right experience” to be attorney general.

A review of online state and federal court records shows Brown, in his nearly three decades as an attorney, has been a part of at least five trials — all of them civil cases. O’Malley is a former prosecutor and Baltimore District Court judge.

A Harvard Law School graduate and Bronze Star recipient, Brown served as a military lawyer as part of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, or JAG.

“Veterans unfortunately often have their experience questioned, and it appears that VoteVets, a national leader in supporting progressive veterans, took issue with the negative portrayal that former judge O’Malley has been pushing for weeks,” Brown’s campaign said in a statement.

In a tweet, VoteVets said O’Malley’s claim that Brown isn’t experienced enough for the job is “crap” and called on her to apologize.

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“When a veteran is attacked and denigrated, we will always set the record straight — especially when someone tries to argue that their service to this country is some kind of disqualification,” Jon Soltz, chairman of VoteVets, said in a statement. “Anthony Brown is one of the most qualified candidates in the country for attorney general, despite slimy attack ads being run against him.”

Instead of apologizing, O’Malley is asking Brown to disavow the VoteVets advertisement and commit to no longer accepting dark money support.

“Join me in pledging not to allow independent expenditures to mislead voters in this race,” O’Malley said.

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In March 2021, Brown voted for the For the People Act, a voting rights and campaign finance reform bill that would have required PACs to disclose their donors. The bill did not pass the Senate.

In a previous interview with The Sun, Brown said his experience as a lawmaker at the state and federal level matters more than trial experience.

“This is an executive leadership position that requires someone with a demonstrated record of getting things done,” Brown said in early June.

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O’Malley, in a separate June interview, said trial experience is paramount to successfully navigating the litigation an attorney general is expected to handle.

“You have so many different tactical decisions you have to make. … I really think for attorney general you need extensive trial practice.”

The VoteVets ad opens with an image of O’Malley with the word “shame” written across her face in red. Some members of the Maryland General Assembly voiced displeasure with that part of the ad, saying it is sexist.

“I am appalled! This is another example of the disempowerment of women,” Del. Bonnie Cullison, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter. “Rep. Brown should disavow the material and apologize to women in Maryland.”


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