Anthony Brown is a clear front-runner over 10 in the Democratic primary for Maryland attorney general, a new poll for Baltimore Sun Media and the University of Baltimore shows.
Brown, a congressman and former lieutenant governor, leads O’Malley, a former Maryland first lady, longtime judge and prosecutor, 42% to 29% among likely Democratic voters. Twenty-seven percent of respondents were undecided.
On the Republican ticket, Michael Peroutka, a former Anne Arundel County councilman and attorney, and Jim Shalleck, a private attorney and former federal prosecutor, are essentially tied — but nearly two-thirds of the likely GOP voters questioned were undecided.
The candidates are seeking to replace Democratic Attorney General Brian Frosh, who announced in October that he would retire in 2023 after two four-year terms.
Pollsters conducted the survey by phone and online between May 27 and June 2. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points among Democratic voters and 4.7 percentage points among Republicans.
Steve Raabe, president of OpinionWorks, the Annapolis-based firm that conducted the poll, said Brown had a “substantial” lead.
A three-term congressman from Prince George’s County who is Black, Brown polled exceptionally well with Black Marylanders and better than O’Malley with women. Sixty-one percent of Black respondents said they would vote for Brown, compared with 15% for O’Malley. Of female respondents, 40% said they would vote for Brown compared with 29% for O’Malley.
Brown recently received an endorsement from Pro-Choice Maryland, a leading abortion rights group in the state.
In addition to knowing each other from their time in Annapolis [Brown was lieutenant governor in the administration of O’Malley’s husband, Martin O’Malley, from 2007 to 2015], the candidates agree on most of the major campaign issues, such as strengthening consumer protection, environmental protections and oversights, and expanding the office’s criminal prosecution capability.
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.
Most voters surveyed were likely going with name recognition, Raabe said.
“I think he is actually much better known than she is and that’s part of it,” Raabe said. “He’s been on the ballot multiple times statewide and he’s a known commodity for Maryland voters.” Brown was the Democrats’ 2014 nominee for governor, losing to Republican Larry Hogan, who is now wrapping up the second of his two, four-year terms.
Anne Arundel County resident Keshia Baird said she was likely to support Brown because she knew about his previous government experience, and said his long history of public service makes him an “intriguing” candidate.
However, Baird said her mind could change. “Before I actually vote, I plan to research all the candidates and what they would like to do [with the office],” she said.
Dean Dworkin, a Howard County resident, said he would vote for O’Malley because, unlike Brown, her entire career has been spent in courtrooms. O’Malley was a District Court judge in Baltimore for 20 years until she resigned last fall to run for attorney general.
“I know she’s been a judge for many years and she seems to be a law-and-order type person,” Dworkin said.
Although married to a former governor, O’Malley herself is less known than Brown to voters statewide, Raabe said.
“She has quite of bit of work to do to become better known to voters statewide, despite her family connections,” Raabe said. O’Malley’s father, J. Joseph Curran Jr., was Maryland’s longest-serving elected attorney general, holding the office from 1987 to 2007.
“It’s likely Brown’s support is soft, but she would have to shift things dramatically and quickly,” Raabe said, a nod to the July 19 primary being just six weeks away.
Maryland Policy & Politics
With the primary pushed back until midsummer by legal fights over redrawn political maps, it’s possible fewer voters will turn out than in years past, Raabe said. In 2014, the last contested Democratic attorney general primary, just over 460,000 voters chose a nominee.
Among Republican voters, Peroutka had the support of 19% and Shalleck 18%, with 63% undecided.
While Maryland has elected Republican governors three times since 2002, it has not had a Republican attorney general since Edward D.E. Rollins was appointed in 1954. As a result, many GOP voters may be checked out or not paying attention to this down-ballot race, Raabe said.
Former Cecil County Council President Joyce Bowlsbey, a Republican, said crime, specifically in Baltimore, is one of her top electoral issues. She said she thinks the next attorney general should play a more active role in prosecuting crimes in the city.
Bowlsbey said she hadn’t picked a candidate on the Republican side, mostly because there seemed to be little point in doing so.
“I don’t know if it’s futile, but it would be hard to get a Republican in there,” she said. “Although, we have a Republican governor, so maybe we’ll see.”
This article has been corrected to say Katie Curran O’Malley was a District Court judge in Baltimore for 20 years until she resigned last fall to run for attorney general. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.