Democratic Congressman Anthony Brown eased to victory Tuesday against Anne Arundel County lawyer Michael Peroutka to become the first Black attorney general of Maryland.
With early voting, mail-in ballots and more than 90% of precincts reporting, Brown had almost 60% of the vote — a lead of more than 285,000 votes. He took the stage around 9 p.m. Tuesday and claimed victory before a cheering crowd.
“This evening, I accept the privilege and responsibility to be your next attorney general.”
Standing beside his wife and 95-year-old mother, Brown thanked his family, supporters, congressional and campaign staffers.
“As attorney general, as the people’s lawyer, you have my commitment I’m going to focus every day on getting the job done and making Maryland better.”
Brown jumped to an early lead off early voting and mail-in ballots and he maintained at least 60% of the vote into the night.
He told The Baltimore Banner the election was not only about his race, but the Democrats’ historic ‘diverse unity ticket.’ Fellow Democrat Wes Moore was elected the state’s first Black governor, Democrat Brooke Lierman the first woman comptroller.
“It’s a big night in Maryland. I mean, really the celebration of a big win — Wes Moore, we call this the ‘diverse unity ticket.’ We’re really excited, but now the work begins. So, you know, I’m going to take a day off tomorrow. And then, you know, re-energize, recharge, reconstitute. And then Thursday I’ll be in the Office of the Attorney General on the transition side, starting to transition into office two months from now and raise my right hand and set out and focus on equity and justice, fairness in so many different ways and so many different areas. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Brown celebrated the results at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel in Harbor East with Moore and Lierman. Supporters crowded into the hotel ballroom to dance and cheer beneath the lights and blue-and-yellow balloons.
Organizers said more than 2,000 people registered to attend the party — more than the ballroom could hold. They turned some away. In the crowd, people spoke of coming to witness the historic moment.
“In one night, every single one of our statewide positions is going to be held by a person of color or a woman,” Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson told the crowd.
In the attorney general race, Brown and Peroutka sought to replace Brian Frosh, who last year announced his plans to retire after two terms as the state’s chief legal officer. Brown defeated Katie Curran O’Malley in the July Democratic primary with about 55% of the vote.
Peroutka could not be reached for comment, and it was unclear where he watched the results. He and his campaign manager did not return messages Tuesday. Peroutka has declined interviews and canceled media appearances during his campaign.
Brown said Peroutka had not contacted him or conceded Tuesday night.
Brown’s victory comes as little surprise. The Republican faced long odds in the race. The last member of the GOP elected attorney general for Maryland was Alexander Armstrong in 1919. Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 2 to 1 in the state — or by more than one million registered voters.
Moreover, Peroutka’s politics would not endear him to many mainstream voters. He’s called for an investigation of Dr. Anthony Fauci and described pandemic mask mandates and lockdowns as crimes deserving of prosecution. A CNN news report in July found he hosted 9/11 conspiracy radio shows years ago and prompted Gov. Larry Hogan to fire off on Twitter, “These disgusting lies don’t belong in our party.”
In a campaign statement after his win, Brown alluded to the controversies that surrounded his political opponent.
“Tonight, our state showed the country what Maryland’s values are all about. We reject hate, conspiracies, and division. We embrace our differences and see each of our neighbors as deserving of respect. And we value fairness, safe communities, and a level field where every family has an opportunity to get ahead,” he said in the statement.
Maryland’s attorney general handles the legal business of state government, representing agencies, boards and commissions. Assistant attorneys general also represent the state in the appeals courts. The police reform bills of 2021 tasked the office with investigating all fatal police shootings. The office provides its findings to the local state’s attorney, who decides whether to charge the officer.
Well-known in Maryland politics, Brown, 60, of Prince George’s County, served two terms as lieutenant governor under Martin O’Malley. He previously represented Prince George’s County in the House of Delegates.
In 2014, he ran against Larry Hogan for governor and lost with about 47% of the vote; Hogan finished with 51%.
Brown has represented Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, which includes parts of Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties, in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2017.
Before his career in elected office, he served as a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army from 1984-1989 then went into the U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He retired as a colonel in 2014.
During his campaign for attorney general, Brown said he wanted to expand the civil rights division of the office and intends to seek greater authority from the General Assembly to bring cases in instances of discrimination. He has promised to protect abortion rights in Maryland and said he will work to reduce gun violence. In recent years, the attorney general’s office has prosecuted more gang cases that were typically left to the counties.
Brown has also spoken of reforming Maryland’s juvenile justice system in Maryland so fewer boys and girls are prosecuted for crimes in adult court.
Peroutka, 70, of Pasadena, served on the Anne Arundel County Council from 2014-2018. He’s been endorsed by the Maryland Right to Life State Political Action Committee. And he’s campaigned on promises to protect gun rights and investigate unfounded claims of election fraud in Maryland.
In 2004, Peroutka ran for president on the Constitution Party ticket and his campaign was largely seen as a sideshow. He ran on a platform headlined “Honor God, Defend the Family, Restore the Republic.”
A graduate of Loyola University and the University of Baltimore School of Law, he has been a member of the League of the South, which the Southern Poverty Law Center says has secessionist, white supremacist goals, and once sang “Dixie” — asking the audience to “stand for the national anthem” — at a 2012 League of the South conference.
When a student group invited Peroutka to speak about the Constitution at Towson University last month, about 60 students protested outside.
“I don’t have any ties to a white supremacist group and I’m not a white supremacist and I’m not a racist,” he told students.
Peroutka said he resigned from the League of the South after a leader spoke against interracial marriage.
Baltimore Banner reporter Pamela Wood and Maryland-based freelance writer Jon Meltzer contributed to this article.