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Katie Curran O’Malley, retired judge and former first lady, launches bid for Maryland attorney general

Retired state judge and former first lady Katie Curran O’Malley announced Dec. 1 she is running for attorney general. (Video: Katie Curran O'Malley for Attorney General | Youtube)
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An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Katie Curran O'Malley went to the University of Maryland School of Law. She attended the University of Baltimore School of Law. The story has been corrected.

Katie Curran O’Malley is running for Maryland attorney general, setting the stage for an unprecedented battle between the former first lady and her husband’s lieutenant governor.

O’Malley, a retired judge and the wife of former governor Martin O’Malley, will face U.S. Rep. Anthony G. Brown in the Democratic primary to become the state’s chief law enforcement officer. Brown launched his campaign late last month.

O’Malley, 59, is expected to officially announce her campaign Thursday.

O’Malley’s announcement comes a little more than a month after Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) announced he does not plan to seek reelection next year.

As a former prosecutor and judge, O’Malley said she has the skills and experience to continue Frosh’s work and to be ready on “Day 1.”

U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown announces bid for Maryland attorney general

“I have a great deal of respect for Brian Frosh; I would not have been running if he were seeking reelection,” she said in an interview. “When he decided that he would not, I thought it was the perfect marriage of all the experience that I’ve had as state’s attorney and then as a judge to campaign for the role of attorney general and to carry on his legacy.”

During the past six years, Frosh has taken on the gun lobby, big pharmaceutical companies and successfully sued the administration of President Donald Trump over preserving the Affordable Care Act, Trump’s travel ban and his rollback of environmental regulations.

Earlier this year, Frosh announced his office was launching a state review of police-involved fatalities handled during the tenure of former chief medical examiner David Fowler. Fowler testified for the defense in former police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial in the murder of George Floyd. As part of police accountability legislation enacted this year, the attorney general’s office also is now responsible for investigating police-involved fatalities in the state.

About a week after Frosh’s announcement, O’Malley announced that she was retiring her post as a Baltimore District Court judge, ending a 20-year career on the bench. She said her career as a prosecutor and judge has been focused on helping people, keeping communities safe and handling cases dealing with domestic violence, substance abuse and other issues.

“The path that I have been on my entire career is helping people,” O’Malley said in explaining her decision to jump in the race. “And I think the job of the attorney general is such an important job, probably one of the most important positions that an elected official in our state government can have.

O’Malley graduated from Towson State University and the University of Baltimore School of Law. After law school, she worked as a prosecutor in Baltimore County. She was appointed to the bench in 2001 by Gov. Parris Glendening (D) and served an initial 10-year term. She was reappointed twice, most recently by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) earlier this year.

While on the bench, O’Malley was deeply involved in working on domestic violence issues and helped train other judges on how to handle the cases.

As a judge, O’Malley was precluded from participating in partisan political activity, which included her husband’s two gubernatorial campaigns.

Maryland AG Brian Frosh, the unlikely Grateful Dead fan taking on President Trump

But she was outspoken during the governor’s hard-fought battle to pass same-sex marriage legislation through the General Assembly in 2012. Her remarks were sometimes criticized and questioned by legal experts who said she was walking a fine line by getting involved in the debate.

She opted to remain on the bench after her husband’s victory in 2006 and during his time in office was one of few spouses of governors who served in the judiciary.

O’Malley grew up in a prominent political family. Her father, J. Joseph Curran Jr., was the longest serving attorney general in state history (1987 to 2007), and her grandfather and two uncles served on the Baltimore City Council.

If she is elected — in addition to becoming the first woman to hold the office — O’Malley and her father would be the first father-daughter duo to serve in the position.

“I’ve seen how laws work for people, but at the same time I’ve seen how laws cannot be helpful and effective, and as attorney general I want to be a lot like my father,” she said. “I want to be known as a fair person that is always giving people a chance.”

She also said she thinks it is time for Maryland to elect more women to higher office. While Maryland has had female lieutenant governors and a woman serve in the U.S. Senate, there are currently no women elected by voters in top elected offices. House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore) holds one of the highest positions but it is selected by members of the House of Delegates.

“Women make up 55 percent-plus of the population, so we need to have a voice, and we have a different perspective, especially when we look at reproductive rights and the challenges that may be coming ahead in the future,” O’Malley said. “Having a woman’s perspective is much, much needed.”

O’Malley’s announcement comes with endorsements from Del. Courtney Watson (D-Howard), Baltimore City Councilmembers Izzy Patoka (D) and Mark Conway (D) and community advocate Maria Martinez.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh will not seek reelection

“I am supporting Katie because her depth of experience and firsthand knowledge of the justice system make her the most qualified candidate to be Maryland’s next Attorney General,” Conway said in a statement. “I am confident that, as Attorney General, Katie will fight to protect the people of Maryland with both passion and understanding.”

Brown, who served alongside Martin O’Malley from 2007 to 2015, also launched his candidacy shortly after Frosh announced his decision not to seek a third term. Brown made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2014 and two years later won a congressional seat. He has said he has long been interested in becoming attorney general. After returning from Iraq, Brown, an Army veteran and former delegate, ran for the seat for about two months before joining Martin O’Malley’s ticket.

If Brown is elected, he would become the first Black person to serve as attorney general.

O’Malley said she looks forward to “being able to campaign with Anthony and anybody else that enters the race.” She described it as a “great thing” for Marylanders, who will ultimately decide “who they think is the best person to represent them as attorney general of Maryland.”

O’Malley and Brown — who each come from two Democratic strongholds of Baltimore and Prince George’s County, respectively — are the only Democratic candidates who have jumped into the race.

Jim Shalleck, a Republican from Montgomery County, is the only other declared candidate.

Candidates have until Feb. 22 to file. The primary election is June 22.