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Candidates for Attorney General Buoyed by Latest Poll Results; Who’s Right?

Attorney General Brian Frosh and Republican Craig Wolf meet.
Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (left) and his Republican challenger Craig Wolf meet at a crab feast last summer. File Photo

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) had a 9-point lead over his Republican rival in a new poll, and he is expressing confidence that an ad blitz he launched this week will boost his standing with the electorate even further.

But Frosh isn’t alone in claiming momentum from this week’s survey by Gonzales Research and Media Services.

Republican candidate Craig Wolf said the closer-than-expected sampling of the electorate is proof that Frosh’s priorities are out of step with Maryland voters, who he asserts are preparing to dump a “career politician” in November.

“The frustration and the exasperation of people in [Baltimore] City and across the state with what’s going on with the crime issues, it’s palpable,” the challenger said in an interview. The poll “has changed the entire dynamic.”

The Gonzales poll found that 43 percent of Maryland voters support Frosh, 34 percent support Wolf and 23 percent were undecided.

The survey, of 806 likely voters, was in the field earlier this month. It had a 3.5-point margin of error.

Frosh, who is seeking his second term, rejected the suggestion that his popularity is slipping.

“It doesn’t seem tight,” Frosh told Maryland Matters. “I’m ahead. We just went up on TV yesterday and I expect that the gap between us will continue to widen when people start seeing the message.”Democratic voters surveyed by Gonzales supported Frosh overwhelmingly (63-16). Republicans backed Wolf by an even bigger margin (71-12). Independents broke narrowly for the incumbent (31-27).

Frosh had a 5-point lead in the Baltimore region and a 30-point edge in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. Wolf had the edge in Anne Arundel (37-29) and the more rural parts of the state (45-13).

Howard County voters were split down the middle, with 41.7 percent supporting each candidate.

Wolf’s claim that Frosh has “high negatives in the black community” isn’t borne out by the Gonzales survey. African-Americans supported him by nearly four-to-one (59-16). Wolf’s edge among white voters (40-38) was within the margin of error.

The same poll that showed Wolf within potential striking distance of Frosh also showed Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan (R) retaining his commanding lead over challenger Benjamin T. Jealous (D).

When the campaigns last filed finance reports in late August, Frosh had $1.25 million cash on hand; Wolf had only $160,000.

Asked if Hogan would be helping him during the closing stretch of the campaign, Wolf demurred, saying, “We’ll see. That’s up to the governor,” adding, “I hope he does.”

Wolf is a former prosecutor who until recently served as CEO of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, an industry trade group.

When the two men hold their first debates later this month, Wolf will likely hammer Frosh on several fronts.

In the interview, he accused the attorney general of focusing too much of his time on national issues, of failing to seek legislative authority to prosecute street crime in Baltimore City, and of supporting rules that allowed violent offenders to post bail pending trial.

“The system is not working for the victims of this state and for the citizens of this state,” Wolf said.

Frosh dismissed Wolf’s claims, calling them “ridiculous,” “silly” and “naive.”

He said that in his first term he has:

— Created the first organized crime unit in the attorney general’s office;

— Cracked down on “pill mills” and doctors who over-prescribe opioids;

— Worked with the FBI and DEA to take down drug traffickers;

— Protected consumers from “for-profit.. so-called schools” that mislead potential students;

— Fought White House efforts to weaken protections for people with preexisting medical conditions; and

— Fought to protect Maryland’s environment from encroachments by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Frosh said efforts to reform Maryland’s bail law were meant to ensure that people accused of non-violent crimes don’t get incarcerated because they can’t post bond.

“People should not be in jail because they’re poor,” he said. “[The new rules] also say, if they’re a threat, lock ‘em up.”

Wolf said that Frosh’s numerous legal battles with the president are a waste of resources and a distraction from the job he was elected to. “He’s tone deaf. He thinks the ticket to his reelection is suing the administration.”

The attorney general defended each of the lawsuits he has filed, saying that important issues — civil liberties, health insurance, blunting the proliferation of home-printable handguns and others — were at stake.

Frosh and Wolf have also debated debates.

The challenger claims his rival has refused multiple invitations to square off on TV and radio, including an invitation from Sinclair Broadcasting’s Fox 45 in Baltimore, which proposed a debate moderated by conservative commentator Mark Hyman.

“You can’t be afraid to debate on TV because you might get tough questions,” he said.

The pair will appear together twice, on the eve of early voting — on Oct. 17 at the University of Maryland Law School and on Oct. 20 at the University of Baltimore Law School.

“He asked for two debates at the law schools, I agreed to two debates at the law schools,” Frosh said. “Why don’t we do the two debates that he asked for, and then we can talk.”

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Candidates for Attorney General Buoyed by Latest Poll Results; Who’s Right?