Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) announced Thursday that he will not seek reelection, ending a career in public office that has spanned more than three decades and included taking on the gun lobby, big pharmaceutical companies and even a former president of the United States.
In an announcement to his staff, Frosh described his time as the state’s chief legal officer as “the most rewarding, fulfilling and, I believe, productive experience” of his professional life.
He said that although he still loves the work he is doing, he realizes that it is time to bid farewell to public office at the end of his term.
“I’m getting up there in years. . . . And I don’t want to stay past my sell-by date,” Frosh said in an interview Thursday.
The decision not to run for reelection was a difficult one, he said, but “I think, ultimately, it is best for me and best for Maryland.”
Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore) both described Frosh as a dedicated public servant who offered advice as they moved into their leadership positions in recent years.
Jones said Frosh “guided us through landmark legislation that settled a decade-long HBCU [historically Black colleges and universities] lawsuit, brought more oversight to policing and cracked down on the state’s most damaging environmental polluters.”
“You will not find a more dedicated lawyer for the people,” Jones posted on Twitter.
Frosh said he still has about 15 months in office and plans to “make the most of every single moment.”
A lifelong Marylander from Montgomery County, Frosh served 28 years in the General Assembly before being elected attorney general in 2014. He began his legislative career in the House of Delegates, where he served from 1987 to 1995. He went on to serve in the state Senate from 1995 to 2015.
The soft-spoken Frosh has built a reputation in Maryland as a thoughtful leader with a strong moral compass who has shunned the limelight in his pursuit of justice.
Frosh said he is most proud of the work his office has done around what he calls the institutionalization of poverty, “reforming laws that cram people down into poverty.” Among them, he said, was prohibiting Maryland from suspending driver’s licenses over traffic debt, pushing the state’s highest court to weigh in on an overhaul of bail rules, and fighting back efforts by the bail-bond industry to have the legislature overturn the new court rules.
“It’s a crushing blow for many people having to decide whether to pay rent, put food on the table or pay their fine to MVA. And if they don’t pay their fine to MVA, it means they can’t work because if they drive again, they run into criminal trouble,” Frosh said, referring to the Motor Vehicle Administration.
Frosh said that within the first month of the policy being reversed, 90,000 people applied to have their driver’s licenses reinstated.
This year, he launched an investigation of police custody deaths overseen by the state’s former chief medical examiner, who testified for the defense in former police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial in the 2020 killing of George Floyd. Frosh said the review of David Fowler’s cases is one of the things he will focus on as his term finishes. He also plans to propose legislation again this year to raise the court filing fee for eviction. He said Maryland has one of the lowest rates in the country.
In 2017, Frosh joined D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) in a successful lawsuit against Trump, alleging that the then-president had violated anti-
corruption clauses in the Constitution by not severing ties with his businesses.
Frosh was chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee for 12 years, and in that role helped shepherd the state’s repeal of the death penalty and passage of same-sex marriage legislation through the General Assembly.
After the 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., he led an effort to ban assault weapons in Maryland.
Four years ago, as attorney general, he defended that law and persuaded a federal appeals court to uphold the constitutionality of what has been called one of the toughest gun-control laws in the country.
The decision by Frosh, who was not challenged for the Democratic nomination, is likely to attract a number of candidates for the open seat.
“There are huge challenges facing the state and the country,” Frosh said. “It may make sense — I hope it makes sense — for somebody new to step in.”
Frosh said he is not sure what he will do when his term ends in January 2023, but he said he plans to stay engaged in public policy in some form.