April 21, 2014

Apr 24, 201310:53 AMMoCo Politics

A Statewide Showdown In District 16

Apr 24, 2013 - 10:53 AM
A Statewide Showdown In District 16

Sen. Brian Frosh (left) and state Delegate Bill Frick (right)

Although separated in age by almost three decades, state Sen. Brian Frosh and state Delegate Bill Frick have a lot in common.

Both are native to a county historically dominated by new arrivals: Frosh attended Walter Johnson High School, while Frick studied at Bethesda/Chevy Chase High. Today, they reside barely a mile from each other along Bethesda’s River Road corridor, and share representation of District 16 in the Maryland General Assembly. In Annapolis, both can claim a record of legislative accomplishment as well as a passion for some of the same issues, particularly in the realm of consumer protection.

Perhaps it is as much because of these connections as in spite of them that Frick and Frosh now find themselves on a collision course.

While some in local political circles wait to see if one of them blinks, both men say they are committed to seeking the 2014 Democratic nomination to succeed Attorney General Douglas Gansler – another Bethesda resident who is expected to announce soon that he’s running for governor. Frosh starts with a lead in fundraising—he had $390,000 at the start of this year compared to $60,000 for Frick—and a long list of endorsements in a contest further complicated by the presence of two other candidates from major state population centers: Baltimore County Delegate Jon Cardin (a nephew of U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin) and Prince Georges County Delegate Aisha Braveboy.

How did this statewide political head-on between two candidates from the same legislative district come about?

Frick, a member of the House of Delegates since 2007, practices law with the Washington power firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. He said he began contemplating the attorney general’s race a couple of years ago. In part, he ascribed his interest to having become “frustrated with the pace of the legislative process” in dealing with issues on which he placed a priority. “This is an office where you can make a huge difference for consumers…and you don’t have to run the gauntlet of lobbyists and committees and subcommittees and so on,” Frick said.

When Frick approached Frosh about the contest, Frick says that Frosh told him that he was already committed to another attorney general aspirant from Montgomery County: state Sen. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park, a law professor at American University.

At the time, Frosh – who first won election to the House of Delegates in 1986 before moving to the state Senate in 1994, where he now chairs the influential Judicial Proceedings Committee – had his eye on the pinnacle of Annapolis legislative power: presidency of the state Senate. But Frosh soon surmised that the long-time incumbent, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller of Prince Georges County, was not going to retire in 2014.

Then, last summer, Frosh received a call from Raskin, who said he was reconsidering the attorney general’s contest due to personal factors. He urged Frosh to consider running instead.

“After Jamie called me, I called Bill, we had lunch and I said ‘Bill, I’m looking at the race,” Frosh recalled.

The two men also seem to share similar motivations in their desire to run for this particular office. “I think it gives me so much more leverage to achieve the kind of policy ends I’m interested in – protecting the environment, protecting consumers,” Frosh said.   

But recent events have left what is, at best, an awkward relationship between the two District 16 colleagues -- although both men are reluctant to characterize it.

“I don’t think the average voter is worried about the drama between us,” said Frick. “It’s unfortunate, but…” His voice trailed off.

Two factors on which the race may turn are geographical – whether there is there room in the race for two Montgomery-based candidates – and generational.

Frosh will be 68 just before the 2014 election; if elected, he would be the oldest first-term attorney general in state history. He is nearly a quarter of a century senior to the next oldest of his three likely opponents in the forthcoming primary.

Declared Frick, now 38: “I think I have the right mix of experience and a track record that people can have confidence in, but that I’ve also got the energy and the vision to be effective for years to come.”

Frosh, mindful that three of the last four attorneys general have sought to parlay the job into a run for governor, seems prepared for those who might question his staying power.

“I want to be attorney general because I want to be attorney general,” he said. “It’s an incredibly important job, and it ought to be of some comfort to people that I’m not using this as a springboard to something else.” 

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About This Blog

If the professional lives of many Montgomery County residents are focused on the District of Columbia , their personal lives are increasingly affected by decisions – ranging from transportation policy to school funding – made in Rockville and Annapolis. MoCo Politics will track the behind-the-scenes political maneuvering within the county government, as well as the county’s delegations to the Maryland General Assembly and U.S. Congress.

A self-confessed political junkie, Louis Peck has covered politics from the local to the presidential level during a 40-year career in journalism. Peck first arrived in Washington as a reporter for Gannett newspapers; he later served as editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine and National Journal's CongressDaily, a daily publication on Congress. A long-time Bethesda resident, he is currently on the faculty at Boston University 's Washington Journalism Program.

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