Brian Frosh Won’t Seek Re-Election as Attorney General

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D). Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) will not seek a third term next year, he announced Thursday, capping off a political career that began 35 years ago.

The Montgomery County Democrat, who turned 75 earlier this month, sent a message to his staff on Thursday morning informing them of his decision.

“I am writing to let you know that after 35 years in public service, I have made the difficult decision not to seek re-election as Attorney General,” Frosh wrote. “My work with you has been the most rewarding, fulfilling and, I believe, productive experience of my professional life. I continue to treasure the opportunity to work with all the talented and dedicated people that make up our great office.”

Frosh’s political career began in 1986, when he won a bid to represent Montgomery County’s District 16 in the House of Delegates. After two terms in the House, he served for 20 years in the state Senate, the last dozen as chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, before his election as attorney general in 2014. He was reelected in 2018 with nearly 65% of the vote.

As a legislator and attorney general, Frosh has been viewed as a thoughtful, deliberate and low-key pol who eschews the limelight.

He was part of a coalition of state attorneys general who fought back against the excesses of the Trump administration. Maryland Democrats cheered his actions, though some Republicans claimed he was spending too much time on national politics.

Frosh and Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), who both took office in 2015, clashed often over the last seven years, most recently over the attorney general’s refusal to represent the state when Hogan sought to end supplemental unemployment insurance benefits before they were set to expire.

In the General Assembly and as A.G., Frosh has fought the proliferation of firearms, climate change and the nation’s pharmaceutical firms. He helped lead the fight to abolish the death penalty in Maryland. Advocates for child sex abuse victims believe he moved too slowly to identify and prosecute church officials who preyed on young people; an investigation launched in 2018 is ongoing, his office said last month.

In a press release announcing Frosh’s plans, his office highlighted other accomplishments, including being the first attorney general in the nation to issue guidance prohibiting discriminatory profiling by law enforcement and the release of a report, “The State of Marriage Equality in America,” that was cited in the Supreme Court’s historic Obergefeld decision that legalized gay marriage.

His record was lauded by Democratic supporters throughout government on Thursday.

“Brian Frosh has been an outstanding Attorney General and we have all benefited from his wisdom, character, and leadership. We were fortunate that Brian was willing to be a national leader in the effort to fight back against the unconstitutional actions of the Trump Administration,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) said in a statement. “While most people know Brian in his role as Maryland’s Attorney General, many people may not know he was a central leader in the effort to combat climate change and to protect our environment during his many years of distinguished service in the Maryland General Assembly representing Bethesda. Our state, our environment, and our community are better for Brian’s commitment to justice and equality.”

House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) called Frosh a “brilliant litigator, a defender of our core values of justice and fairness and our country’s moral compass.”

“In my time as Speaker, he has been a reliable source of advice and wisdom,” Jones tweeted. “He has guided us through landmark legislation that settled a decade-long HBCU lawsuit, brought more oversight to policing and cracked down on the state’s most damaging environmental polluters.”

Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said Frosh was a “dedicated public servant, fierce advocate, trusted advisor, loyal Marylander, and honest friend.”

“His depth of knowledge is second to none and cannot be replicated,” Frosh tweeted.

Frosh would have been a prohibitive favorite to lock down a third term had he chosen to run next year.

His decision not to run will set off a scramble among Democrats interested in the post.

Montgomery County attorney James Shalleck, a Republican, launched a bid for the GOP nomination in July. The Republican nominee would face long odds next November even with Frosh out of the race, due to the Democrats’ lopsided voter registration advantage.

In his letter to staff, Frosh noted that he still has about 15 months in his term as attorney general. “I intend to make the most of every single moment. I will continue to work with you to provide the best possible legal advice to our clients, to protect Marylanders, to improve their lives and to fight for justice,” he wrote.

Frosh becomes the second long-serving state official this week to disclose plans to step aside.

Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D) announced on Monday that she will retire later this year, as soon as the General Assembly elects a replacement. The 77-year-old Kopp was first elected to the House from District 16 in 1974. Frosh joined the District 16 team a dozen years later, and was then elected in 1994 to represent the Bethesda-based district in the Senate.

Frosh quoted Margaret Mead in his letter to his staff: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Danielle E. Gaines and Josh Kurtz contributed to this report. 

[email protected]