Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler yesterday was elected Maryland's first new attorney general in two decades, completing a political journey years in the making.
"The message we conveyed with public safety and protecting the environment crossed party lines," Gansler, 44, of Chevy Chase, said as he headed toward a gathering of Democrats in Baltimore. "I'm excited about getting started."
His opponent, Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle, 45, conceded shortly before 10:30 p.m., saying he knew his chances appeared slim. He had been recruited as a candidate this spring by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
"We knew this would be tough," Rolle said.
Gansler, a high-profile prosecutor in the vote-rich suburban Washington county, promised to enhance enforcement of the state's laws in environmental protections, combat Internet fraud and ask legislators to adopt a racketeering law to take down gangs.
"We are going to do an environmental audit where we identify polluters, and we are going to prosecute them," he told 200 supporters last night in Bethesda.
He has vowed to have teams walk the waterways that lead to the Chesapeake Bay to track down polluters, as well as to chase down Pennsylvania hog farmers if their operations' waste is fouling the bay.
Both candidates had promised to follow in Curran's footsteps as a champion of consumer advocacy. Curran has been the state's chief legal counsel since 1986. Many Marylanders cannot recall when he did not hold the job.
The attorney general interprets state law, runs an office of nearly 400 lawyers who advise state agencies and represents Maryland government in legal matters.
From the outset, Gansler, a former federal prosecutor in Washington completing his eighth year as Montgomery County's top prosecutor, was considered the candidate to beat. He began laying the groundwork five years ago for this contest. Four years ago, he waited on the night of the deadline to file candidacy at the Board of Elections in case Curran made an 11th-hour decision not to run.
He supplemented an aggressive campaign schedule with a $1.5 million statewide media campaign that began in August. Campaign finance reports showed that he raised more than $2 million.
His summertime statewide television advertising blitz went unchallenged. In the primary, he easily defeated Stuart O. Simms, a former Baltimore City state's attorney. Courts threw a third Democrat, Montgomery County Councilman Thomas E. Perez, off the ballot for failing to meet the constitutional requirement of 10 years of practicing law in Maryland.
Last week, a lawsuit challenging Gansler's eligibility, filed by a Bowie man represented by Rolle's campaign manager, was dismissed.
Rolle, who faced no primary opponent and whom Ehrlich billed as "my lawyer," ran a far more limited campaign, relying heavily on his folksy style and shoe leather. He had served 12 years as chief prosecutor in Frederick County.
He raised about $180,000. He spent about $9,400 on a media campaign. Two years ago, Rolle mounted a bid for Congress, losing a primary battle against incumbent U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett.
Sun reporters Greg Garland and Annie Linskey contributed to this article.