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Curran O’Malley ad questions Brown’s qualifications in Md. AG race

In the first attack TV ad of the cycle, former judge Katie Curran O’Malley says her opponent, Harvard-educated lawyer Anthony G. Brown, has never tried a criminal case in Maryland

Former judge and candidate for Maryland attorney general Katie Curran O'Malley in a 2022 campaign photo. (Curran O'Malley Campaign)

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly said the Democratic primary has determined the attorney general since 1952. The story has been corrected to say that a Republican was appointed attorney general in 1952. No Republican has been elected Maryland’s attorney general since 1919.

The Maryland race for attorney general already had a contentious Democratic primary, but it entered a new phase this past week as former judge Katie Curran O’Malley released the first negative television primary ad of the year.

Looking directly at the camera in a 30-second television spot released Friday, Curran O’Malley listed her accomplishments — nearly three decades as prosecutor and judge — and criticized Rep. Anthony G. Brown’s credentials.

“My opponent, Anthony G. Brown, is a fine congressman, but he’s never tried a criminal case in Maryland and he doesn’t have the right experience for this job,” Curran O’Malley said. “I’ll be ready to fight for you on day one.”

Brown is a Harvard-educated lawyer who served eight years as lieutenant governor alongside O’Malley’s husband, former governor Martin O’Malley.

Since 2016, Brown has represented Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, anchored in Prince George’s County. He’s also a former military lawyer for the Army — where he commanded a unit of 80 legal professionals as a JAG officer, supporting soldiers in criminal defense, legal assistance and consumer protection matters — and has criminal experience in D.C., along with class-action and other civil experience.

While Curran O’Malley’s campaign said the ad draws a clear contrast between her Maryland-centric experience and Brown’s political career, the Brown campaign saw it as an attack.

“It is disappointing that former Judge O’Malley has decided to attack Congressman Brown — who has dedicated his life to public service and has a clear record of delivering results,” Brown’s campaign manager, Dylan Liau Arant, said in a statement. “The people of Maryland deserve better.”

Curran O’Malley is a former District Court judge and prosecutor in the Baltimore area who resigned from the bench before jumping into the race to succeed Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D), who is retiring. She’s also the daughter of Maryland’s longest-serving attorney general, J. Joseph Curran Jr. In her ad, filmed in a courtroom setting, she notes she’s been working on criminal justice issues for 30 years.

The former allies have battled outside the spotlight trained on the high-stakes, crowded primary race for governor as Democrats try to take back the executive mansion after two terms of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. But in the lower-profile attorney general’s race, Curran O’Malley and Brown have raised millions and have divided many of the state’s political leaders and activist groups.

The Democratic primary has determined the state’s attorney general in every election since 1919, though a Republican was appointed to the job for two years starting in 1952.

Republicans Jim Shalleck, the former elections chief in Montgomery County, and Michael Peroutka, a former member of the Anne Arundel County Council, are on their party’s primary ballot. Together, they’ve raised a fraction of what the Democrats have hauled in.

The attorney general’s office is the lawyer for the state government and the enforcer of consumer protection laws. But with violent crime on the rise in areas across the state, criminal justice has taken on a outsize role in the campaign.

During the candidates’ lone debate, they each made public safety a top priority. Curran O’Malley emphasized prosecuting and suing sources of “ghost guns” — firearms that are assembled at home and lack a serial number. Brown said his relationships with state lawmakers and experience with the General Assembly make him well-suited to push for tougher laws regarding guns.

Until this past week, no other Democratic candidates for any top office in Maryland had released an ad directly targeting a primary opponent this year. The ad will air in Baltimore and D.C. broadcast and cable markets, the Curran O’Malley campaign said.

A little more than three weeks remain until the July 19 election. Brown has so far raised more money than Curran O’Malley, according to the most recent campaign finance reports released this month. At that point, Brown had $1.2 million to spend, about $400,000 more than Curran O’Malley.

Brown’s campaign released its newest ad last week. It featured Brown bantering playfully with his wife, Karmen Walker Brown, about why he deserved her vote.