Challenger Presses Frosh on Debates, Record as AG Race Ramps Up

When it comes to the office of attorney general, Maryland Republicans have not always put up much of a fight. The most recent example of their (sometimes extreme) ambivalence came just eight years ago when incumbent Douglas F. Gansler (D) was seeking a second term. The state GOP could not find a single person willing to run against him. This year feels different. Not only does former Allegany County Assistant State’s Attorney Craig Wolf have his litany of complaints against incumbent Brian E. Frosh (D) down to crisp, bite-sized nuggets, he’s also the sort of man who is willing to press his opponent for a commitment to debate, as Wolf did after spotting Frosh at the usually laid-back Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in Crisfield last week. Republican challenger Craig Wolf (left) and state Attorney General Brian E. Frosh discuss the possibility of debating during last week’s Tawes Clam Bake and Crab Feast in Crisfield. Photo by Bruce DePuyt  Wolf, who stood with his arms crossed during their brief encounter, failed to illicit a firm commitment, but the point was made.  “I’m ready to debate my opponent any day, anywhere, as many times as he likes,” the challenger said.  “[I want to] focus on public safety, focus on Maryland, not on Washington, focus on working with the governor.” Wolf argues that Frosh has spent too much time as AG suing the federal government instead of attending to problems at home. That message is sure to resonate with President Trump’s supporters in Maryland, and with many fans of Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R). Frosh, who is technically the lawyer for all of state government, has had somewhat frosty relations with the governor. A former delegate and state senator who rose to become chairman of the powerful Judicial Proceedings Committee, Frosh defeated little-known Republican Jeffrey N. Pritzker, 56 percent to 41 percent, four years ago. If the expected Blue Wave materializes this fall, the Montgomery Democrat will likely have little trouble this time either. But if Hogan has coattails, it’s not inconceivable that Frosh will end up having to fend off a stiff challenge.  Said Wolf: “With Baltimore being the murder capital of the country, with a murder rate equivalent to — what — Venezuela, with 2,000-plus opioid deaths, which have multiplied over the years, we’re fourth-in-the-country in trafficking in children, we’ve got MS-13 and gangs running crazy, that’s [all] on his watch.” “He hasn’t done his job, so why should he be re-elected?” In an interview, Frosh offers a vigorous, point-by-point rebuttal to the charges his challenger makes. — “I stood up the first organized crime unit in the history of the Attorney General’s office. They’ve been very active in going after violent crime. We’re working cooperatively with… DEA, the FBI, ATF. We have one of the most aggressive operations around.” — “Opioids: we’ve indicted close to 200 folks, most of them are now in prison. We’ve busted up pill mills. I think for the first time in history we convicted a pill mill operator of being a drug kingpin [with] a mandatory 20-year-without-parole sentence.  —  “We’ve broken up prison corruption.”  Frosh said Wolf is either unaware of the work is office is doing, or he’s trying to mislead. “The idea that we’re somehow diminished in our attention to this is just 180 degrees from the truth. I don’t know whether he doesn’t know that, or whether he’s being disingenuous.” And Frosh defended the time he’s spent fighting the Trump administration. “Standing up for Marylanders in that connection is just as important as… wiping out consumer fraud, taking on crime, etc., all of which we are doing and doing energetically,” he said. Wolf is banking on getting significant political support from organizations representing law enforcement, support Frosh said may not come. The former counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee who enlisted in the Army after 9/11, at the age of 40, Wolf spent the last decade serving as CEO of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, a lobbying organization. Frosh, a Bethesda attorney before becoming AG, enters the general election campaign with a massive financial advantage. According to the last three financial disclosure statements, Wolf raised $216,410 as of June 10 and had $124,647 cash on hand. Frosh entered 2018 with more than half-a-million dollars ($565,115) in his campaign account.  As of June 10 he had added $729,155 and had a cool $1,056,298 remaining.   As for those debates that Wolf pressed for during his face-to-face with Frosh? “He won’t commit yet,” the challenger said. “He just asked me for the first time a minute ago,” the incumbent said. I said, ‘pleased to talk with you about it, please get in touch with my staff.’” [email protected]

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