The traditionally quiet, obscure race for state attorney general could turn out to be the most rip-roaring battle in Maryland politics this year because of the nomination Tuesday of two brash, outspoken lawyers as candidates for the post.
While voters chose gubernatorial candidates often characterized as softspoken and genteel, they picked Stephen H. Sachs, a former corruption-busting federal prosecutor, and Warren K. Rich, a pugnacious champion of enviromental law, to slug it out for the job as the state's top legal officer.
Sachs swept to a landslide victory over his three opponents in the Democratic primary. He pulled in about 59 percent of the vote and by a margin of nearly 4 to 1, outdistanced his nearest competitor, Deputy Attorney General Jon Oster, who had been the choice of the current attorney general.
Sachs, 44, spent nearly $300,000 and two years campaigning to prove to the political establishment that he could win without bowing to the Maryland tradition that has attorney general candidates running on gubernatorial tickets. He ran alone, as an independent Democrat, his literature proclaiming to voters: So that once he's elected, he won't owe anything to anybody - expect you.
He has promised to bring to the office a vigorous new law encorcement approach in everything from the handling of consumer complaints to rooting out official corruption in scandal-scarred Maryland.
Sachs charges that the current attorney general, Francis B. Burch, and his predecessors have abdicated their responsibility to go after political corruption. The attorney general, he says, must be politically independent to do the job right.
"That," says GOP nominee Rich, "is a lot of public relations crap." Rich says the attorney general does not have the power to investigate corruption, unless the governor or legislator authorizes him to.
Sachs counters that the attorneys general have not bothered to ask for the authority because they "were part of the club."
But Rich says Sachs' whole stance shows how little he knows about the office, where Rich until recently was the chief environmental lawyer for seven years.
"Maybe," retorts Sachs, "not having been involved in the office for the last 10 years is an asset in terms of what that office has been."
And so, in two separate interviews yesterday, the tenor of the campaign was set.
Sachs was the U.S. attorney for Maryland in the late '60s who prosecuted a Prince George's County commissioner, a speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates and a U.S. senator.
As a private practitioner in Baltimore, Sachs has represented clients whose testimony helped convict corrupt public officials. That work deepened the intense dislike of him by some of the state's old power brokers.
Rich, 39, who recently left the attorney general's office for a private environmental practice on the Eastern Shore, has argued environmental cases, including one that stopped the city of Camden, N.J. from dumping sewage sludge off the coast of Maryland and another against strip miners in Western Maryland. He is running on a ticket with GOP gubernatorial candidate J. Glenn Beall.
A lawyer who has known both men for years says neither one "minds saying exactly what he thinks." He added with a laugh, "I think it's gonna be a really good fight." Convention Delegates
The following persons were chosen in Tuesday's primary to be District of Columbia delegates to the Democratic midterm convention in Memphis in December: