COLLEGE PARK – The candidates for the democratic nomination for Maryland attorney general participated in their debate before the June 24 primary Monday evening.
The debate, hosted by the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, gave the candidates their first opportunity to let voters know where they stand on a variety issues and respond to criticism.
The candidates running for the democratic nomination are Montgomery County Sen. Brian Frosh (D-16), Baltimore County Del. Jon Cardin (D-11) and Prince George’s County Del. Aisha Braveboy (D-25).
Cardin in particular had to answer questions about his character. Cardin has received criticism from the media and his opponents for using Baltimore Police Department resources during a marriage proposal prank in 2009.
“Character is not just about making mistakes,” Cardin said. “It’s also about how you respond to those mistakes.”
Cardin also received criticism for missing 75 percent of his committee votes in the 2014 legislative session. However, Cardin said the criticism is “disingenuous” and noted he has a better than 90 percent voting attendance record during his time in office.
“I did 100 percent of the work. You know how Annapolis works,” Cardin said. “The work is really done in subcommittee and I did not miss one subcommittee vote.”
Cardin said he worked closely with his committee chairman to ensure his absences would not determine the final outcome of a bill. He also said his absences were due to family medical needs.
During opening statements, Frosh promised he would come to work every day. Later on, he said there is no excuse for someone to miss 75 percent of their committee voting sessions.
“If you don’t vote you don’t count,” Frosh said. “You don’t deserve a promotion when you are not doing the job you are elected.”
Braveboy answered questions about a lack of experience compared to her opponents. Braveboy noted she practiced law for almost 14 years and has performed pro bono work, including advocating for large diversionary programs for youth.
“I am running to be the top attorney, not the top legislator,” Braveboy said. “Look at my record as an attorney. I spent my time working on issues that affect Marylanders to find real solutions.”
The candidates were also asked were asked if there were any situations in which they would choose not defend a case the state appeals.
Frosh said the attorney general should exercise the power only in the rarest of circumstances.
Braveboy said she would not defend the state’s appeal of a lawsuit by historically black colleges and universities alleging the state’s higher education commission violated their rights to equal protection and have not provided adequate funding by duplicating programs at the pre-dominant white universities.
Last October a federal court ruled in favor of the historically black institutions.
“It is wrong and it is unconstitutional,” Braveboy said. “Maryland must take a lead and I will counsel the governor to do so… Maryland does not want to fully engage in a mediation process. It is unconscionable Maryland would take that position.”
As for the issues themselves, the candidates are in agreement. All three support advocating for the environment and promoting transparency by government.
Frosh, who chairs the Senate’s judicial proceedings committee, said he made sure people could livestream his committee’s voting session on gun legislation in 2013. He also said he helped pass legislation which allows individuals to sue for information under the Maryland Public Information Act.
Braveboy said she voted against redistricting legislation because she did not think the process was transparent. She promised she would fully engage citizens if elected as attorney general.
Cardin said he has advocated for transparency as chairman of the House of Delegates election law subcommittee. Additionally, he voted against the speed camera program.
“I thought (the program) was creating some uncertainty and non-confidence in the government because people thought this was a money grab,” Cardin said. “I want people to slow down in work sites and school zones, but if we do not have confidence in government then we cannot achieve our goals. I will make sure we have a transparent system.”
The candidates will participate in another debate at the University of Baltimore on June 9, two weeks before the primary election.