Rally With a Retirement Twist

J. Joseph Curran Jr. said he wanted to retire while people would still ask,
J. Joseph Curran Jr. said he wanted to retire while people would still ask, " 'Why did you leave too soon?' " (By Gail Burton -- Associated Press)
By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 9, 2006

More than 200 supporters crowded into a Baltimore hotel yesterday to cheer a politician who was no longer running for office: Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. (D), retiring after 20 years as the state's top lawyer and nearly five decades in state politics.

Surrounded by his children and grandchildren, as well as friends waving signs reading "40 more years," Curran said he concluded that, at age 74, it was time to step down from political office.

"I'd rather it be said, 'Why did you leave too soon?' rather than, 'Why did you stay too long?' " Curran said. Standing at the lectern with his wife, Barbara, Curran flashed a victory sign and, during a long and resounding ovation, saluted and pointed to friends in the crowd at the Tremont Plaza Hotel.

Curran told reporters later that the only active campaigning he would do in the Democratic primary this year would be for his son-in-law, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, a candidate for governor. He said he intends to stay out of the race for his own seat. "There are so many qualified people out there, I think it's better to let the public make the decision," he said.

Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler (D) said he is set to make an announcement Monday at several locations across the state but stopped short yesterday of formally declaring.

Montgomery County Council member Tom Perez (D-Silver Spring) likewise said that "we will be moving full-steam ahead" on a campaign, adding that he would announce this month.

Perez sent a letter yesterday to the attorney general's office requesting an advisory opinion on his eligibility for the office. The state constitution says only those who have practiced law in the state for 10 years are eligible for the office; Perez has been a member of the Maryland State Bar Association since 2001.

But he said he is "fully eligible" by virtue of his work as a federal prosecutor and deputy assistant attorney general for the U.S. Justice Department. "I handled numerous matters in Maryland between 1989 and 1994," Perez wrote in the letter.

Curran said yesterday that he believes both Gansler and Perez are qualified for the job but reserved his warmest praise for Prince George's County prosecutor Glenn F. Ivey (D), calling him "just a class act."

Ivey reiterated yesterday that he would run for reelection as state's attorney and would not seek the nomination for the statewide office. "It's tempting in some ways," Ivey said. "It's a powerful office that could be used to do many things for the people of Maryland."

Meanwhile, Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle, a Republican, is set to announce his candidacy today, with scheduled appearances with Gov. Robert L Ehrlich Jr. and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele in Frederick, Rockville and Hunt Valley.

Curran's announcement drew polite praise from Ehrlich, who has accused the attorney general of playing politics with legal matters.

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