By Josh Kurtz
Lynne Battaglia, the Clinton-era U.S. attorney for Maryland who has been a Court of Appeals judge for the past 11 years, is considering running for attorney general in 2014, according to knowledgeable sources.
Battaglia is telling associates she believes she’d have an advantage in the Democratic primary because she’ll likely be the only woman in the race — though Del. Aisha Braveboy (D) is also talking about running, and there continues to be a fanciful rumor that Katie Curran O’Malley wants the job. Battaglia has not yet decided when to step down from the bench to become a candidate, though people who know her say it’ll probably be later rather than sooner – if it happens at all.
Battaglia did not respond to a phone message left at her chambers in Annapolis Monday. But her apparent interest in the AG’s race is another sign that the contest, dormant until recently, has suddenly sprung to life.
State Senate Judicial Proceedings Chairman Brian Frosh (D) is now taking steps to run. As first reported by Maryland Juice blogger David Moon, state Del. Jon Cardin (D) has four fundraisers scheduled in August alone – including one in Chicago and one in Ocean City coinciding with with MACo, which suggests he’s very serious about a statewide race.
Del. Bill Frick (D) continues to travel the state, exploring the possibility of an AG run. Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy (D) is also making the political rounds, most recently at the Crisfield crab feast. And as we reported two weeks ago, former Ehrlich administration official Chrys Kefalas is contemplating running on the Republican side.
What kind of candidate would Battaglia make? She was one of Maryland’s most politically savvy – and connected – U.S. attorneys in recent memory. But that doesn’t automatically mean she’d be effective on the stump or know how to put together a campaign apparatus.
Battaglia is certainly well known among insiders – and her ties to the Mikulski mafia undoubtedly help. But Battaglia’s name recognition among average voters probably isn’t as high as she thinks it is – it’s been a long time since she put the likes of Gerry Evans behind bars.
Elections for attorney general often start off as an insiders’ game, with lawyers lining up to express their opinions in a variety of ways. And it’s fair to say that opinions of Battaglia within the Maryland bar are decidedly mixed – her rulings and opinions during her 11 years on the bench have undoubtedly disappointed countless lawyers, some of whom also did battle with her when she was U.S. attorney. Fundraising could be a problem.
As for the theory that Battaglia could prosper as the lone woman in a crowded race, history isn’t all that helpful. Just ask Gov. Mary Boergers or Attorney General Ellie Carey or Comptroller Janet Owens.
Of course, Battaglia is more formidable than any of them were. And this time, there’s a new and potentially pivotal group poised to make a difference for women candidates – Emerge Maryland, set up by powerhouses like Martha McKenna and Susie Turnbull to elect more women in the state. There are many more – and many more influential – women lawyers in Maryland now than there were when Ellie Carey ran for AG in 1994 (challenging incumbent Joe Curran). Oh, and did we mention the Mikulski mafia?
The Mikulski connection may not be all it’s cut out to be, though. True, the senator has a big and powerful network of staff alumni throughout the state, and they’re all loyal to her, and to a lesser extent, each other. Similarly, Mikulski is often very loyal to her former top aides.
But Mikulski doesn’t exactly have an intact political machine that can be put into operation at a moment’s notice. She runs her own campaign cycle to cycle and it only has to gear up once every five or six years.
What’s more, Mikulski has already extended herself on Battaglia’s behalf, when Battaglia sought – and received – the appointment to the Appeals Court from Parris Glendening. Is the senator going to get deeply involved in a Democratic primary featuring several credible contenders?
On the other hand, working in Battaglia’s favor is the fact that the other potential Democratic contenders are not without their flaws, either.
Frosh is well liked and well respected – even among ideological foes – and has a long record of legislative accomplishment, burnished by an unparalleled record of honesty and decency. But he’s never run a large-scale campaign, and fundraising and retail campaigning are not his strong suits. And he entered the legislature in 1987, meaning one of his opponents is certain to try to slap the dreaded “Annapolis insider” tag on him.
Cardin has to grow a lot to prove he’s anything but a very pale imitation of his uncle. Frick is a fresh face, but maybe too fresh – and he and Frosh represent the same legislative district, which could be problematic for both. Braveboy and McCarthy need to start behaving like candidates soon if they’re serious about running. And it’s hard to see how a Katie Curran O’Malley candidacy jibes with her husband’s White House ambitions.
The 2006 election was noteworthy because Marylanders elected ambitious, relatively young men – Doug Gansler and Peter Franchot – as attorney general and comptroller, respectively. Those offices are political launching pads in most states, but in Maryland, before Franchot and Gansler, they had become sinecures for old men.
Frosh and Battaglia will both be in their late ‘60s in 2014 – veteran public servants looking for their ultimate political reward. However much they may bring to the table, as candidates and potential attorneys general, that’s just one of many considerations for Democratic voters as the race for AG evolves.
Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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