Md. Democratic attorney general hopefuls debate in Baltimore


State Sen. Brian E. Frosh, left, and Dels. Jon S. Cardin and Aisha Braveboy participate in a debate at University of Maryland's Van Munching Hall in College Park on May 19. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)
June 9

State Sen. Brian E. Frosh did not hesitate to attack Del. Jon S. Cardin during a debate Monday night among Democratic candidates for Maryland attorney general, but Cardin was ready to defend himself.

As soon as the first panelist posed a question at the University of Baltimore, Frosh (Montgomery County) launched his offensive, questioning Cardin’s attendance during this past winter’s legislative session in Annapolis.

“I show up every day,” said Frosh, comparing himself with Cardin (Baltimore County), who missed 75 percent of his committee votes during the 90-day session.

Frosh, 67, also accused Cardin of being absent for 20 percent of the votes in 2013, both during the legislative session and during a special session on gambling legislation.

Cardin, 44, quickly struck back, assailing Frosh’s stance on laws aimed at protecting children and punishing violence against women.

He called Frosh’s criticism of him “disingenuous” and “intellectually dishonest” and contended that most of the legislative work in Annapolis is done in subcommittees, where he said he was present 100 percent of the time.

The two state lawmakers are competing in the June 24 primary, along with Del. Aisha N. Braveboy (Prince George’s), 39, who is less well known and less well funded. During the debate Monday night, the three candidates were asked about their positions on gun violence, environmental justice, identity theft and a lawsuit brought by the state’s historically black colleges against Maryland.

The hour-long debate was more acerbic than a May 19 face-off at the University of Maryland in College Park. Although Braveboy stuck to the questions that were asked, Frosh and Cardin made attack after attack.

During a question about gun violence, Cardin criticized Frosh for killing bills that would have kept child predators in jail longer and created a task force to study child abuse, among other things.

Frosh pushed back, saying that he is firmly opposed to violence against women and children. “I am a husband. I am a father of two daughters,” he said. “There is no one more concerned about violence against women than me.”

He added that he had been endorsed by a host of police unions and law enforcement organizations, and he chided Cardin for enthusiastically accepting the support of a Baltimore area rapper who is facing human-trafficking charges. (Cardin distanced himself from the singer after the charges became known).

“You’ve been endorsed by Mr. Ski Money,” Frosh said. He accused Cardin of recycling old accusations that had been used during previous elections by Frosh’s Republican opponents.

Cardin persisted, asking Frosh why he opposed “Jessica’s Law,” legislation that would impose strong mandatory-minimum sentences on sexual predators.

“I’ve long had reservations about mandatory-minimum sentences,” Frosh said, quickly turning the issue back to Cardin’s attendance record. “That’s not leadership.”

Frosh, a veteran lawmaker, is supported by much of the state’s Democratic establishment. As chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, he has played a key role in the passage of gun-control measures, the abolishment of the death penalty and the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Cardin, more than two decades younger, has been dogged by controversy over several embarrassing episodes — including the rapper endorsement, his attendance record and a police-assisted marriage proposal in 2009. But he is the nephew of a well-known and popular U.S. senator, Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), and appears to be benefiting from strong name recognition.

Cardin has led Frosh in several polls and raised more money than Frosh in the most recent reporting period, although Frosh has outraised him overall.

Earlier Monday, Cardin and Frosh each received an endorsement from a Democratic member of Congress who lives in his part of the state.

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, announced his support for Cardin during an event in Annapolis.

Ruppersberger, a six-term congressman and a former Baltimore county executive, lauded Cardin’s focus on cybercrime, saying, “In Annapolis, Jon has proven that he understands the threats of today and tomorrow and that he’s ready to take them on.”

Rep. John Delaney, meanwhile, endorsed Frosh, saying his “quiet perseverance, steadfast dedication and his exceptional intellect make him the right person for this job.” Delaney, of Potomac, represents Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, which includes most of the state’s western counties and parts of Montgomery County, where Frosh’s support is strongest.

In addition, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who represents a Baltimore area district, Maryland’s 7th, announced his support of Frosh.

Cardin has focused his campaign on what he calls “next-generation issues,” vowing to make Maryland a leader in combating Internet crime such as identity theft, online bullying and Web scams. He has sponsored legislation to criminalize cyberbullying and harassment on social media.

During the debate Monday night, he belittled a bill that Frosh has proposed that would use computers to improve the state’s bail bond system. Cardin called the proposal “a million-dollar scheme in which a computer determines a person’s freedom.”

Frosh retorted: “That’s the comic book version” of a serious and complex issue.

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