Curran's would-be successors can get going

Maryland Votes 2006

May 08, 2006|By DAVID NITKIN AND JENNIFER SKALKA | DAVID NITKIN AND JENNIFER SKALKA,SUN REPORTERS

The wait is over for Maryland politicians and lawyers who have yearned for the job of attorney general but kept their desires in check while incumbent J. Joseph Curran Jr. maintained a lock on the position.

With Curran set to tell his staff today that he will not seek re-election, the contenders who have been raising money and speaking to political clubs for months without declaring their intentions can formally begin campaigning.

"I will have an announcement of my plans next Monday, May 15," said Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler, who has the largest campaign account among several Democratic contenders - $1.4 million as of January.

FOR THE RECORD - An article Monday provided an incorrect title for Montgomery County Councilman Thomas F. Perez, a Democrat who is planning to run for attorney general. Perez was president of the council in 2005, but he does not currently hold that position.
The Sun regrets the error.

"I have made no secret about it. I love the law, and the job that I coveted someday was attorney general," Gansler said yesterday. "I was waiting to see what General Curran did before I made an announcement."

Accessible to the media and always eager to publicize his office's accomplishments, Gansler has significant name recognition in the state's largest jurisdiction. His office is now prosecuting the Washington-area sniper John Allen Muhammad. But Gansler's quick tongue earned him a reprimand in 2003 from the Maryland Court of Appeals for making comments to the media that could have tainted cases.

Another Democrat from Montgomery, County Council President Thomas F. Perez, said yesterday that he is a candidate for the job.

"You can take that to the bank," Perez said as he drove back from a political appearance at a Democratic club in Wicomico County. "We're in, and I'm looking forward to it.

"Our message is simple: We are going to focus on the issues that are going to matter most to people: health security, work security," he said. "The attorney general has an incredible opportunity to make a big difference in so many different ways."

Some critics, however, are raising questions about whether Perez is qualified to serve as attorney general. The Maryland Constitution states that to be eligible for the office, a candidate must have "resided and practiced Law in this State for at least 10 years." The questions were first reported by The Washington Post.

Perez was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1988, and was hired as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice in 1989. Justice Department attorneys are authorized to appear in federal court in every state, he said. But he has been a member of the Maryland Bar only since 2001.

Perez, who if successful would become the first Latino elected to statewide office in Maryland, insisted yesterday that the concerns "will turn out to be without merit." He said he studied the issue, and is "absolutely certain" he meets the requirements. "I welcome the debate with any candidate about who is qualified," he said.

the Republican side, Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle has scheduled an announcement tomorrow and has the backing of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. At a Lincoln Day dinner in Howard County on Friday, Ehrlich stood under a "Rolle for Attorney General" banner and implored the crowd to vote for the prosecutor.

"Please give me a lawyer. Please give me a lawyer who will represent me," said Ehrlich, who has sparred with Curran over environmental and First Amendment cases. "We need a new attorney general in this state. Scott Rolle is that man."

Curran said yesterday that he would not endorse a successor, but expressed admiration for one politician who had previously talked about running for the job: Glenn F. Ivey, the state's attorney in Prince George's County. Curran called Ivey "a very impressive person."

But Ivey, a Democrat, announced months ago that he would seek re-election in Prince George's, and said yesterday that he would not change his mind.

"It truly is flattering to have people speak highly of me with respect to this race, but I'm committed to serving the people of Prince George's County for another four years," he said. "I'm ruling it out."

State Sen. Brian E. Frosh of Montgomery County, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, said he was considering the race and would discuss it with his family and supporters.

Another frequently mentioned name is that of Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., a former judge. Smith has told supporters that he is running for re-election.

david.nitkin@baltsun.com jennifer.skalka@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Larry Carson contributed to this article.

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