ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland's Democratic primary for attorney general has turned into what could be the closest statewide race next week. An experienced state senator is battling back from far behind in early polls against a Baltimore County lawmaker who has been criticized for an elaborate marriage proposal several years ago that involved Baltimore police resources and a recent endorsement by a rapper indicted on human trafficking charges that the candidate ultimately rejected.
The race to become the state's chief lawyer includes Montgomery County Sen. Brian Frosh, a Senate committee chairman, and Baltimore County Del. Jon Cardin, who benefits from broad name recognition with the help of U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin — his uncle. Del. Aisha Braveboy, who is in her second term representing Prince George's County, also is running.
They are campaigning to fill the vacancy that will be left by Attorney General Doug Gansler, who is running for governor.
A poll published in The Washington Post last week found Cardin with support from 26 percent of likely Democratic voters, Frosh with 20 percent and Braveboy with 13 percent.
Frosh, who has been a state lawmaker for 28 years, is running on his long record as an advocate for public safety and environmental issues. Frosh led the effort to pass a far-reaching gun-control measure last year, work that helped win him endorsements from Gov. Martin O'Malley and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He also has the backing of former attorneys general J. Joseph Curran and Stephen Sachs.
"I think I can have an even greater impact on those issues as attorney general then I have as chairman of the (Senate) Judicial Proceedings Committee," Frosh said.
Cardin is focusing his campaign on protecting residents from increasing threats they face on computers, such as identity theft. Last year, he pushed for the successful passage of a measure known as "Grace's Law," which made it a misdemeanor to repeatedly and maliciously use a computer to bully someone under the age of 18. He says the issue also is a concern for the state's elderly residents.
"I believe that is an important issue that every single parent and every single son and daughter worry about for their family," Cardin said.
Braveboy, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, is campaigning as an advocate for economic and social justice, highlighting her experience as a lawyer representing families facing foreclosures and victims of domestic violence.
"As attorney general, I will expand the role of the Civil Rights Division to include the investigation and prosecution of significant civil rights violations," Braveboy says on her campaign website.
Much of the primary race in recent weeks has focused on questions about Cardin's judgment. He has been criticized for missing numerous votes in committee, which Cardin says were due to health concerns for his pregnant wife. Frosh also has criticized Cardin for praising a Baltimore rapper, who endorsed the delegate, without knowing about his background. Cardin posed for a picture with the rapper known as Ski Money, whose legal name is Lawrence Christian. The photo was posted on social media, but Cardin ended up quickly rejecting the endorsement after learning of pending charges related to prostitution against Christian. An attorney for Christian did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
"That's part of being in a campaign," Cardin said. "I can't vet every person that I take a picture with."
Cardin also made headlines in 2009 by involving a Baltimore police boat in his marriage proposal to his current wife at Baltimore's Inner Harbor. As a police helicopter flew over, police boarded a boat they were on with friends and pretended to search for contraband until Cardin popped the question. Cardin ended up apologizing several times for the stunt and reimbursing the city $300, as well as making a donation to the department's mounted unit.
Cardin says the negative campaigning is the result of an opponent struggling in the polls who has substantial backing by officials in Annapolis.
"I am not a member of the good ol' boy club," Cardin said, adding: "It is unprecedented in a Democratic primary to attack somebody's character when we agree on so much."
The winner of Tuesday's primary will face Republican Jeffrey Pritzker and Libertarian Leo Wayne Dymowski. They are unchallenged in the primary.