Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) said in a radio interview Saturday that he was willing to endure a bad week that included “character assassination” in order to become governor and help people “who have bad days every day.”
Gansler’s remarks were his first public comments since a press conference Thursday in response to a photograph showing him walking through a throng of teenage revelers at a party held at a rented beach house in South Bethany, Del., where his son was the DJ.
Gansler, who has acknowledged he should have done more to determine whether there was underage drinking at the party, has been the subject of national media scrutiny and the butt of late-night television jokes since then. The story first appeared in the Baltimore Sun.
After declining media interviews Friday, Gansler fulfilled a previous commitment Saturday to appear on “The 19th Hole,” a show about golf, on WJFK 106.7 FM, to discuss his efforts to spare the University of Maryland golf course from a proposed housing, office and retail development. The interview also touched on the controversy of the week.
“You have a bad day here, you have a good day there, but you know, this was a rough week, the character assassination and all that kind of stuff, and there are definitely people who don’t want me to become governor, and you have to sort of ask yourself why that would be,” Gansler told host Michael Williams. “But you know, for me . . . I don’t want to go through that kind of stuff . . . but . . . that’s why you get into government, that’s why you run for governor, to be able to give to people who have bad days every day, to give voice to the voiceless.”
Gansler cited families going through home foreclosures as an example of those he wants to help.
“If you’ve got the people coming after you to take your home away, where you live with your children, you’ve got a bad day every day,” Gansler said. “And to be in a position to be able to help those folks, I think, is absolutely critical.”
“Did I have a rough week?” Gansler said. “Yeah. I’m a big boy, I can handle that. But there’s a lot of people who have rough times, going through some things.”
During the interview, Gansler did not elaborate on what he considered to be “character assassination.”
Gansler, who is running against Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) and Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery) in the June Democratic primary, also recounted some of his efforts as attorney general to curb underage drinking. Those, he said, included working with his counterparts across the country to get caffeinated alcoholic beverages favored by teens off store shelves.
The June 13 party in Delaware was hosted at a rented house where Gansler’s son and about a dozen other recent graduates of the Landon School in Bethesda were staying during “beach week.”
Gansler said when it comes to underage drinking, his situation as a parent is similar to those faced by all parents of students heading off to college.
“It’s a good conversation,” Gansler said. “It’s a conversation that everybody has to have with their kids — what is appropriate, what’s not appropriate, what’s the right thing to do. . . . I love my kids, and they’ve done a great job of navigating a rough world out there.”
Later Saturday, Gansler made an appearance at the Southern Maryland Democratic Summit in Chesapeake Beach, where he outlined priorities including job creation, education and crime prevention. He joked at the outset of his remarks that he was not there to talk about his parenting or his back-seat driving.
The latter was a reference to a Washington Post story this month about written allegations by Maryland State Police that Gansler regularly directed troopers assigned to drive him to speed, run red lights and bypass traffic on the shoulder, even on the way to routine appointments.
Gansler’s comments on the radio show echoed the sentiment of an e-mail sent to supporters Friday under the subject header “Moving forward.”
“For better or worse, I am not a smooth talking politician who scripts every word,” Gansler said in the e-mail. “But when I make a mistake I own up to it. The fact is that as a parent of a 19-year old, I face the same issues as many of you. How do we get it right? How do we draw the balance between helping our college teenagers make good choices and when to pull them back? You try to always make the best decisions. In this case, maybe I should have done something differently. It has been heartening to hear from so many of you who have had similar personal experiences with these issues.”