Photo above: From left, Sen. Brian Frosh, Del. Jon Cardin, and Del. Aisha Braveboy
By Glynis Kazanjian
The infamous undecided voters of the June 24 primary election that are dominating media polls were a no-show at the first Democratic debate for state attorney general.
Frank Auditorium at the University of Maryland College Park had ample space, but almost all of the participants in attendance were supporters of the three candidates – Sen. Brian Frosh of Montgomery County, Del. Jon Cardin of Baltimore County and Del. Aisha Braveboy of Prince George’s. Media made up the rest.
A husband and wife from Bethesda who came to the debate supporting Frosh left supporting Frosh, but afterward the wife said she didn’t think Frosh was going to win. She asked not to be identified.
Of all the candidates, Frosh has the biggest war chest and more endorsements than Cardin and Braveboy combined, but he finished third in a Washington Post poll conducted in February. According to political opinionators, Frosh is going to have a hard time competing with the Cardin family name. Jon Cardin’s uncle is U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin.
Frosh: ‘I am going to win’
Frosh didn’t skip a beat when asked after the debate to react to his supporter’s sentiment.
“I am going to win,” Frosh said. “I have overlapping networks of support – environmentalists, unions, teachers, Equality Maryland, Casa of Maryland, and I have enough to get my message out. We know when people hear my message, I win.”
Frosh said while this was the first debate, the candidates have been traveling around the state attending forums where he has been winning votes cast after the events.
Frosh mentioned the Columbia Democratic Club. “I got 114 votes, Frosh said. “Jon got 14.”
Frosh also said he was just endorsed by the Central Baltimore Democratic Club. “That’s Jon’s district.”
And he now has the support of the Western Howard and Ellicott City Democratic Club and the Maryland Young Democrats, where he said he received four times as many votes as Cardin.
“Every time the three of us get together, I win.”
But few of the undecideds will ever see them together.
No more Mr. Nice Guy
Debate moderator Douglas Besharov, a University of Maryland School of Public Policy professor, asked Frosh to respond to his biggest criticism – that he was too nice a guy.
“I’ll try to cut that out,” an amused Frosh said to laughter. Frosh went on to say that he’s been a practicing attorney for 35 years who was named one of the best lawyers in America by U.S. News and World Report and one of the best lawyers in the Washington Metropolitan area.
“You don’t get there just by being a nice guy,” Frosh said. “Sometimes you gotta be tough.”
Frosh said he feels he sets a good example for his colleagues, that he works hard and comes to work every day — a segue that led to his first of three attacks on Cardin for missing 75% of committee votes during this year’s 90-day legislative session.
“Jon missing 75% of votes in the Ways and Means Committee is not something you just brush off,” Frosh said standing next to Cardin. “There’s no excuse for it. Can you imagine a firefighter saying, ‘you know I know that 75 houses are burning down, but I wanted to spend more time with my family, and I made it to a lot of other fires.'”
Frosh said if you don’t show up, and you don’t vote, you don’t count.
“You don’t deserve a promotion when you’re not doing the job you were elected to do.”
Cardin defends attendance record
In response, an unruffled Cardin said he had a 90% attendance record in his 12 years as a state legislator and that he was confident he had done his job 100%.
“We had approximately 2,750 votes that I took this year alone in Annapolis,” Cardin said. “I did miss some votes. We are talking about 120 votes out of 2,750.”
Cardin said he checked with his chair every single day he had to miss to make sure that every vote went the way it needed to go. He cited family medical needs for missing some of the work.
“If [the committee chair] needed me, I would have been there.” Cardin said. “I did everything I needed to do in subcommittee to make sure my job was done in Annapolis.”
Braveboy was asked about her voting record as a subcommittee chair.
“I believe I have an excellent voting record on my committee,” Braveboy said. “Our chairman relies upon the subcommittee chair to not only look at the legislation, but also make recommendations and amendments to legislation coming before the [full]committee during our voting session. Every committee is different, but we are required to be looked upon as leaders in our committee so I attend my voting sessions. As a leader on my committee, I am expected to be there.”
The candidates touched on an array of subjects ranging from the Dream Act and redistricting to the death penalty and the environment.
Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post, Eric Cox of the Baltimore Sun and Tracee Wilkins of NBC News Channel 4 were debate panelists.
A second debate is scheduled for June 9.