Former state attorney general and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler said Thursday that he opposes efforts to defund the police because doing so would have a negative impact on public safety in some of Maryland’s most vulnerable communities.
Gansler, who served from 2007-2015, announced his candidacy for governor on Tuesday. Gansler previously ran for the state’s highest office in 2014.
The 2022 Democratic primary field includes seasoned political leaders such as Comptroller Peter Franchot and former two-term Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker. Baker previously ran for governor in 2018. The Democratic field also includes several lesser-known candidates such as Baltimore entrepreneur Mike Rosenbaum.
State Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz is thus far the only Republican candidate in the governor’s race. She and the Democrats are vying to succeed popular incumbent GOP Gov. Larry Hogan. Hogan is term-limited and cannot run again. Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-1 margin in Maryland.
Below is an edited excerpt of an interview with Gansler. The former attorney general discussed his campaign, the recent sale of the Baltimore Sun to a hedge fund, vaccines, and ongoing investigations into former President Donald Trump.
What separates you from the other Democratic candidates in the race?
Gansler: I think what separates me from the other candidates is that I am the one candidate running for governor in either party who has the combination of both the vision, the executive experience, and the proven progressive values to lead our state to the next level and out of COVID-19. And so I think that is a distinguishing feature.
Rushern Baker ran his county and did a great job with it. Franchot has been collecting taxes as the comptroller for quite some time as well. But I think that I am the only one that combines the Democratic progressive vision with a record of getting things done with the executive experience.
Do you support tax breaks or any kind of financial incentive to encourage Marylanders to get vaccinated against the coronavirus?
Gansler: I would like to believe that the incentives for getting vaccinated are their lives and the health and public safety of others. Nobody needed to pay me to get vaccinated. I like being alive and I would like to continue doing so. And I do not want to jeopardize other people’s lives. It is really an obligation of being a citizen of the state to get vaccinated. I believe in people. And people really want to get vaccinated. Some are even driving hours away to get it done. I think we are moving at a good pace now.
Police reform is a hot issue with the General Assembly having recently enacted a slate of related bills into law over the governor’s veto. But some activists are demanding that further action be taken, such as going as far as defunding the police. Where do you stand on that issue?
Gansler: One of the major issues that distinguishes me from every other major candidate running for governor from either party is the 22 years that I spent in government in law enforcement. I began looking into and being active in the police reform movement beginning in 1989 when I became the chair of the Montgomery County NAACP Criminal Justice Committee.
When I was an assistant United States attorney under then-Attorney General Eric Holder we took community prosecution to Montgomery County and they had the first office in the country with community prosecution. We put in drug courts. We put in domestic violence courts. Community prosecution has prosecutors helping to train police officers.
The idea of defunding the police is not something that works and should not be on the table. And it really is not on the table. Using resources with more imagination is something that we definitely should be looking into. And we need to have a governor that has a background in law enforcement and in working with the police and with prosectors to make that happen.
The areas that are affected most directly by crime often are underserved communities and communities of color and lower-income communities. We need to make sure that while we are completely focused on police reform that we do not at all compromise the ability of law enforcement to protect people from violent crime.
The Baltimore Sun’s parent company, Tribune Publishing, was recently purchased by a major hedge fund. What impact do you think that will have on journalists and on news coverage in the state?
Gansler: Stewart Bainum, who is trying to save the Baltimore Sun and a number of other media outlets, is a wonderful person. And he does not need to do this. He has plenty of money. And I think Stewart Bainum is incredibly well-intentioned.
My understanding is that there is some pushback from some hedge funds and other investors. And I do not really know the details of that. The press is important. The press sheds light on what is going on.
And in a state like Maryland, where we have had a history of corruption-in Baltimore and in Prince George’s County and in other places we need to make sure that we have the press available to help bring corruption to light. And we also need a governor who has prosecuted public corruption and has the credentials to make sure that our government is run in a clean, transparent, and corrupt-free manner.
Shifting now to national politics, do you think former President Donald Trump should be charged with inciting an insurrection vis-a-vis the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol?
Gansler: Certainly. He did incite an insurrection. Others did as well. But he was the leader of the country. And if you look at the evidence that was presented during the impeachment hearings, when people were screaming that the president had sent them there and Donald Trump was why they were there-I think Donald Trump was a mentally ill, narcissistic, dictator wanna-be president. And I am very happy that he was unable to completely undermine our democratic institutions. I hope he goes away so that we do not ever have to hear from him again. I am not particularly sympathetic toward him.