The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The Post endorses Katie O’Malley in Maryland’s attorney general Democratic primary

A provisional election judge, reviews paperwork at a voting center at as voters arrive to cast their ballot in a special election in Baltimore on April 28, 2020. (Julio Cortez/AP)
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Katie Curran O’Malley, Maryland’s former first lady and also the daughter of the state’s longest-serving attorney general, is political royalty in the Free State. But having spent a decade as a Baltimore prosecutor and another 20 years there as a district court judge, she has never acted the part in any traditional sense. Rather, Ms. O’Malley has handled practically everything that passes through the doors of a big-city courthouse, from white-collar crime to murder, domestic violence and truancy — an array of real-world experience, centered on struggling victims and offenders, that would give her an unusually broad perspective on the job she now seeks, as Maryland’s attorney general. We endorse her in the Democratic primary on July 19.

Across the United States, just a handful of state attorneys general are women, and fewer still are women who have served on the bench, let alone for the span of time Ms. O’Malley has. She has earned praise as balanced, compassionate, energetic and hands-on. For years she went the extra mile, volunteering weekly to work one-on-one with preteen children skipping school in Baltimore. She was the only one of the city’s district court judges to do so.

There was nothing remotely political about that work. In fact, as a judge she was barred from partisan activity altogether. Yet she is no stranger to politics, having grown up as the daughter of a prominent Democratic politician, former attorney general J. Joseph Curran Jr., and spent a chunk of her adult life as the wife of another, Martin O’Malley (D), who was governor of Maryland and mayor of Baltimore.

She showed spine as an advocate for state legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, a cause she embraced, many believed, more passionately than her husband did initially. The measure passed and was narrowly approved at referendum by Maryland voters, in 2012, three years before the Supreme Court issued a blanket ruling permitting same-sex couples to marry.

In the job of attorney general, held for the past eight years by Democrat Brian E. Frosh, who is retiring, Ms. O’Malley would pursue an unusually detailed, aggressive and wide-ranging agenda. As supervisor of an office whose staff includes 450 lawyers, she would focus on surging violent crime, particularly in Baltimore, whose per capita homicide rate is second only to St. Louis.

Her platform advocates tough measures to grapple with gun crimes, including by pushing to enable victims of gun violence to sue firearms manufacturers. She has sensible proposals to prioritize environmental protection, by going after polluters and ensuring the state hits its targets for reducing harmful emissions. Building on her experience as the top economic crimes prosecutor in Baltimore, before she became a judge, she has pledged investigations of coronavirus testing firms that have defrauded Marylanders and corporations that defraud the elderly.

Ms. O’Malley’s primary opponent, Rep. Anthony G. Brown, who will leave Congress after six years, is an honest, intelligent public servant; he would also make an able attorney general. But his experience, which includes eight years as lieutenant governor, is that of a conventional politician. Ms. O’Malley, having been in judicial trenches, would bring to the role a broader, fresher, people-oriented view.

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