With less than one month to go before the primary, the two Democratic candidates running for Maryland attorney general are locked in a competitive race, with no clear frontrunner.

Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of Republican likely voters are undecided about which candidate to support, according to the Goucher College Poll that was conducted in partnership with The Baltimore Banner and WYPR.

Katie Curran O’Malley, a retired Baltimore district judge and former assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore County, was polling at 30% among 403 Democratic likely voters. U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown, who has represented Maryland’s 4th Congressional District that includes parts of Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties since 2017, was pulling in 29%.

That’s a statistical dead heat, considering the margin of error is plus or minus 4.9%. Goucher College conducted the poll between June 15-19 and reached voters on landlines and cellphones.

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“I would say it’s competitive and not at all decided. There’s clearly not a frontrunner,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College. “And it’s what happens when you have a field of two high-quality candidates with, I think, both strong resumes and the ability to do the job.”

Kromer noted that both candidates have racked up notable endorsements and have deep ties to establishment Democratic politics. The big unknown, she said, is what effect the courts delaying the primary until later in the summer will have on voter turnout and composition.

Though the race for attorney general is tight, 35% of Democratic likely voters who were polled reported being undecided, said Roger Hartley, dean of the College of Public Affairs at the University of Baltimore.

Fundraising, he said, is going to be critical. That’s especially because Democrats in Maryland tend to vote in all three ways: early voting, mail-in ballot or in person.

“It’s a wide-open race. And a lot of time left, and a lot of work to do,” Hartley said. “And it’s going to take resources and volunteers to do it. That’s the big thing.”

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Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, is retiring and not running for reelection.

The attorney general is the chief legal officer of the state and serves a four-year term. The position is set to pay $149,550 in 2022, according to a January report from the Governor’s Salary Commission.

Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 1.24 million, according to data from the Maryland State Board of Elections. The last time that voters elected a Republican attorney general was Alexander Armstrong in 1919.

O’Malley, 59, served on the bench for two decades and comes from a prominent political family.

She’s married to Martin O’Malley, who served as mayor of Baltimore from 1999-2007 and governor of Maryland from 2007-2015. Her father, J. Joseph Curran Jr., was the state’s longest-serving attorney general from 1987-2007.

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She would be the first woman to serve as attorney general.

In addition to serving in Congress, Brown, 60, is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, past member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1999-2007, and former lieutenant governor from 2007-2015 under Martin O’Malley.

He would be the first Black person elected to the position.

Patricia Dodson, 63, a retired employment development specialist who lives in Catonsville, said she was leaning toward supporting O’Malley, citing her 30 years of experience

“I really am kind of fed up with people saying, ‘We need people who don’t know about politics in order to change what’s going on in the country,’” Dodson said. “I think you have to know.”

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“I think you have to be somewhat on your toes and be ready to go off to the races, and not have to be told what you have to do once you get there,” she added.

Brown, she said, is also experienced.

But Dodson said the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and reverse almost 50 years of legal precedent guaranteeing a constitutional right to abortion pushes her to support O’Malley. That’s because men, she said, cannot understand the importance of reproductive rights in the same way.

Gervel Watts, a court reporter from College Park, said she was supporting Brown.

Watts, 51, said she’s familiar with him and believes that it’s important to have an attorney general who’s Black.

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“We’re still underserved and not necessarily treated on the same level as other people,” Watts said. “There’s a certain level of assuming that there be a little bit of compassion, a little bit of forethought, a little bit of not overlooking our needs as citizens as well — because he understands, as a Black person.”

“I feel like, not all, but when other people get in — any position, not just attorney general — they seem so out of touch,” she added.

On the Republican side, Michael Peroutka, a former Anne Arundel County councilman who used to be a member of the League of the South, a Southern secessionist group, was polling at 17% among 414 GOP likely voters. Jim Shalleck, a former prosecutor who recently served as president of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, was coming in at 11%.

The margin of error is plus or minus 4.8%.

But 68% of Republican likely voters reported being undecided.

One of them is Kevin Mackey. Mackey, 54, who’s disabled, said he has not conducted research on the candidates running for attorney general and typically waits until closer to the primary.

Instead, Mackey said, he’s been paying more attention to the gubernatorial race.

He said he’s interested in supporting a candidate who has a track record of working with those from the opposite political party. Mackey said there’s not a lot of cooperation nowadays in government.

“I’m looking for someone that has that type of outlook: they’re not extremely liberal, they’re not extremely conservative,” said Mackey, who lives in Annapolis. “I feel that’s a more realistic view.”

Early voting runs from July 7-14. The primary is July 19.

dylan.segelbaum@thebaltimorebanner.com.

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