Curran To Conclude Generation Of Service

By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 8, 2006

J. Joseph Curran Jr. (D), Maryland's longest-serving elected attorney general, will not run again this fall, ending a nearly half-century career in public office during which he emerged as a leading liberal voice on issues of race, the death penalty and gun control.

Curran's decision not to seek a sixth term, shared in an interview yesterday, adds additional drama to an already extraordinary election year in Maryland.

Four statewide seats are now certain to be vigorously contested in primaries in the heavily Democratic state -- a scenario unlike any in recent decades and certain to yield younger officeholders succeeding some lions of Maryland politics.

"As far back as I can look, this is unprecedented," said Terry Lierman, chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party.

The long-awaited decision by Curran, a member of one of Maryland's most prominent extended political families, has been complicated by the bid for governor by his son-in-law Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D).

A formal announcement is scheduled this morning at an event in Baltimore that is expected to draw many of the nearly 400 state lawyers that Curran oversees. His office is charged with providing legal advice and representation to state agencies, from the governor's office on down.

"I thought maybe it's good to leave while you're still respected rather than when people are asking you why you're still around," said Curran, who will be 75 in July. "I feel very young, and I feel very good. I'd like to do a few more things while time is permitted."

Curran said that he looks forward to returning to private practice and that he might also write and lecture about some of the more turbulent battles of the civil rights era and other parts of his time in politics.

Curran's career began in 1958, when, inspired by Sen. John F. Kennedy, he sought and won a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates. Curran later served in the state Senate and as lieutenant governor during the second term of Gov. Harry R. Hughes (D). Curran won his first term as attorney general in 1986.

During the early part of his career, Curran spoke out on several civil rights issues before the stands were commonly accepted. He called for striking Maryland's law against interracial marriage and for laws requiring the sale of homes to people regardless of race.

Curran ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1968 as a single-issue candidate calling for the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. He became a firm advocate of gun control after a 1976 shooting rampage at Baltimore City Hall, in which his father, a City Council member, suffered a heart attack and later died.

Curran's tenure as attorney general included Maryland's involvement in the national settlement with tobacco companies and a push for laws expanding consumer rights and targeting sex offenders, including 2004 legislation that made it a crime to solicit a minor by computer.

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