Forgoing Congressional Re-Election Bid, Anthony Brown to Run for Attorney General

U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown (D) spoke at a Baltimore news conference in support of The Reconnecting Communities Act in May. Brown announced Monday that he will leave Congress to run for Maryland’s attorney general. Photo by Hannah Gaskill.

U.S. Rep. Anthony G. Brown, a three-term lawmaker from Prince George’s County, said on Monday he will run for state attorney general next year.

The move, which was expected, makes him the first big-name candidate to announce for the post since Maryland’s current attorney general, Brian E. Frosh (D), announced on Thursday that he will not run for re-election next year.

Frosh served for eight years in the post, frequently making headlines for his legal battles with President Trump.

In an interview on Monday, Brown (D) praised Frosh, with whom he recently had lunch. The lawmaker described himself as someone who possesses “the skill, the experience, the education to step up to enforce the laws on behalf of all Marylanders.”

“I’m all about equity,” Brown added. “So whether it’s environmental enforcement, whether it’s holding police accountable, whether it’s the rights of workers in the workplace or consumers in the market, I want to be that attorney general that’s making sure that every Marylander is protected.”

A former two-term lieutenant governor and state legislator, Brown represents portions of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel County in Congress.

He considered running for attorney general in 2006, before then-gubernatorial candidate Martin J. O’Malley (D) chose him to be his running mate. After serving eight years as lieutenant governor, he lost the 2014 gubernatorial race to Republican Larry Hogan, an outcome viewed as an upset at the time.

A press release from Brown’s campaign included statements of support for his attorney general bid from Prince George’s County Attorney Aisha Braveboy (D), retired Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge and civil rights lawyer William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr., retired U.S. District Court Judge Alexander Williams Jr., and Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin.He also released a campaign video that was filmed outside the State House in Annapolis, next to the statue honoring the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Brown’s fundraising effort will start virtually from scratch. Although he recently reported more than $1.5 million in his federal campaign account, he can only siphon off $6,000 for a state race. He can — and is expected to — refund contributions to donors with a request to fund his race for A.G.

Frosh’s announcement, just four months before the Feb. 22 filing deadline, has already triggered a cascade of political moves throughout the state.

The race for attorney general could attract a sizable crowd of candidates — and with Brown set to vacate his House seat at the end of his current term, many are now eyeing a bid for the Fourth Congressional District.

State Senator William C. Smith (D-Montgomery) said on Monday he is weighing an AG bid seriously. He is expected to announce his plans in the coming weeks. Smith serves as chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, the post Frosh held for 12 years before becoming attorney general.

“Who knows what the field will look like. Many people recognize that it’s an opportunity to serve Maryland in a big way,” Brown acknowledged. “It’s an important office and it’s attractive to a lot of people.”

Like the 59-year-old Brown, a retired colonel in the United States Army Reserve who served in Iraq, the 39-year-old Smith is a veteran. He is currently an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserves and has served in Afghanistan.

Brown served in the House of Delegates from 1999 to 2007 before becoming lieutenant governor. Analysts said he ran a lackluster campaign against Hogan, who attacked him repeatedly over taxes and the rollout of the state’s Obamacare web portal, which Brown oversaw.

After that loss, it was unclear whether the Harvard-educated lawyer — a man seen as a rising star in the party — would have the opportunity to mount a comeback. An advocate for progressive causes, he is seen as a low-key, somewhat cautious lawmaker and an ally of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Brown told Maryland Matters he informed Pelosi on Sunday about his decision. He pledged to give his congressional work his full attention.

Brown said his decision to leave Congress is unrelated to predictions that Republicans will retake control of the House in next year’s elections. He has told associates in recent weeks that he dislikes serving in Congress.

He is a member of the Armed Services and Transportation and Infrastructure committees.

The winner of the Democrats’ June primary will likely face Republican James Shalleck, a former federal prosecutor from Montgomery County.

Brown was set to face token opposition next year in his re-election campaign. His decision to leave Congress opens a House seat in an area that is rich with ambitious would-be office-seekers.

Although the new contours of his district won’t be known until the General Assembly draws new lines, Brown’s announcement sent members of both parties scrambling.

The legislature is expected to meet in early December to tackle the once-a-decade chore of redistricting.

[email protected]

Bruce DePuyt
Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. He's a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.