Rally With a Retirement Twist
Curran to Campaign for O'Malley, Stay Out of Other Races
By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 9, 2006; B02
More than 200 supporters crowded into a Baltimore hotel yesterday to
cheer a politician who was no longer running for office: Attorney
General J. Joseph Curran Jr. (D), retiring after 20 years as the
state's top lawyer and nearly five decades in state politics.
Surrounded by his children and grandchildren, as well as friends waving
signs reading "40 more years," Curran said he concluded that, at age
74, it was time to step down from political office.
"I'd rather it be said, 'Why did you leave too soon?' rather than, 'Why
did you stay too long?' " Curran said. Standing at the lectern with his
wife, Barbara, Curran flashed a victory sign and, during a long and
resounding ovation, saluted and pointed to friends in the crowd at the
Tremont Plaza Hotel.
Curran told reporters later that the only active campaigning he would
do in the Democratic primary this year would be for his son-in-law,
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, a candidate for governor. He said he
intends to stay out of the race for his own seat. "There are so many
qualified people out there, I think it's better to let the public make
the decision," he said.
Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler (D) said he is
set to make an announcement Monday at several locations across the
state but stopped short yesterday of formally declaring.
Montgomery County Council member Tom Perez (D-Silver Spring) likewise
said that "we will be moving full-steam ahead" on a campaign, adding
that he would announce this month.
Perez sent a letter yesterday to the attorney general's office
requesting an advisory opinion on his eligibility for the office. The
state constitution says only those who have practiced law in the state
for 10 years are eligible for the office; Perez has been a member of
the Maryland State Bar Association since 2001.
But he said he is "fully eligible" by virtue of his work as a federal
prosecutor and deputy assistant attorney general for the U.S. Justice
Department. "I handled numerous matters in Maryland between 1989 and
1994," Perez wrote in the letter.
Curran said yesterday that he believes both Gansler and Perez are
qualified for the job but reserved his warmest praise for Prince
George's County prosecutor Glenn F. Ivey (D), calling him "just a class
Ivey reiterated yesterday that he would run for reelection as state's
attorney and would not seek the nomination for the statewide office.
"It's tempting in some ways," Ivey said. "It's a powerful office that
could be used to do many things for the people of Maryland."
Meanwhile, Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle, a
Republican, is set to announce his candidacy today, with scheduled
appearances with Gov. Robert L Ehrlich Jr. and Lt. Gov. Michael S.
Steele in Frederick, Rockville and Hunt Valley.
Curran's announcement drew polite praise from Ehrlich, who has accused
the attorney general of playing politics with legal matters.
"J. Joseph Curran Jr. has been in public service for nearly fifty years
as an air force pilot, state lawmaker, Lt. Governor, and Attorney
General," Ehrlich said in a statement. "I commend him for dedicating
nearly a half century to serving the citizens of Maryland."
Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (D) -- a former governor, mayor of
Baltimore and, at age 84, the dean of Maryland politicians -- added his
own salute: "I want to wish Joe all the best during his retirement and
thank him for his many years of dedicated and principled service to the
people and government of Maryland.
"But for the life of me, I can't understand why such a young man would
want to call it quits this early in his career."
Curran reflected yesterday on a career that took him from night classes
at the University of Baltimore School of Law to his election to the
House of Delegates in 1958, the Maryland Senate in 1962 and lieutenant
governor in 1982. In 1986, he was elected attorney general.
"This is the greatest job any lawyer could have," he said. "The
attorney general's office is where it happens."
Curran said yesterday that his decision to retire had nothing to do
with a possible conflict if O'Malley were elected governor and Curran,
as attorney general, had to rule on legal issues involving his
son-in-law. "There never would have been a conflict," Curran said.
"Martin is a man of impeccable integrity."
O'Malley, his wife, Catherine Curran O'Malley -- a Baltimore District
Court judge -- and their children were among family members and
well-wishers who surrounded and hugged Curran after his announcement.
Curran said he would remain active in private law practice and might
write a book about his life in Maryland politics and experiences with
political figures, large and small. The story, Curran said, would
relate "whatever really happened in that other century."
© 2006 The Washington Post Company