Gansler says any politician who talks about the next election when in the middle of a current one is foolish. Then he quickly volunteers statistics on how many attorneys general across the country have sought higher office, including 10 who are running for governor this fall.
But he has taken a different approach from some of the most famous attorneys-general-turned-governors, including Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and former New York Gov. Elliott Spitzer, who won the office after turning their attorneys-general posts into high-profile crime- and fraud-fighting platforms.
Gansler has instead counted on his chosen causes, parlaying his office's Chesapeake Bay pollution studies and prosecutions, and now its opinion on same-sex unions, into headlines.
"If I were his political adviser and I were neutral, I would certainly say, 'Don't make any enemies, enforce the law, try a couple of cases and get your name out,'" said former Sen. Joseph Tydings, a Democrat whom Gansler considers a mentor. "An attorney general can run for governor without any real record."
Miller also wonders whether Gansler should "just stick to his job of interpreting the law."
Gansler's support of gay rights might yield financial rewards for his future political contests. Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, said Gansler is on the radar of national groups and political action committees because he has taken a stand in a state that "is on the cusp" of legalizing gay marriage.
"While we are mainly a federal PAC, we do also get involved sometimes in state elections," Rouse said. "We will certainly be taking closer look at politics of Maryland in 2010 and beyond."
Morgan Meneses-Sheets, director of Equality Maryland, said Gansler is "truly a champion."
"We appreciate that he has used his role as attorney general to really push that it's plain wrong to discriminate against people," she said. Like any advocacy group, she said, Equality Maryland will endorse and financially support its loudest champions at election time.