By: Laslo Boyd 

If his name were Jon Smith, the Delegate from Baltimore County running for Attorney General would never even have considered getting in the race.  And if he had, he would have been largely ignored.

Jon Cardin is a serious candidate for statewide office only because he has a last name famous in Maryland politics.  He is shamelessly trying to cash in on the regard and admiration that Maryland Democrats have for his uncle, Senator Ben Cardin.

Underscoring Tip O’Neil’s adage that all politics is local, Senator Cardin endorsed his nephew this past Monday.  The Cardin with a record of achievement has also been putting pressure on other Democrats to endorse his nephew.  A number of them dutifully showed up at the press announcement and said the obligatory things. 

One problem with Jon Cardin’s candidacy is that his record as a member of the Maryland General Assembly is so totally undistinguished.   He has shown up, sometimes, but has had little impact.  Before this past session, he was a relatively anonymous face in a crowd of 141.

In the 2014 session, a couple of things changed as Jon Cardin mounted his campaign for Attorney General.  First, he unleashed a blizzard of press releases proclaiming his position on every issue under the sun and claiming credit for many on which he had little or no involvement. Real leaders in the General Assembly take difficult stands and work hard to get legislation passed. Jon Cardin issued press releases.

Beyond that, however, Jon Cardin decided that this was the session in which it really wasn’t all that important if he actually showed up for work in Annapolis. He demonstrated the classic entitlement mentality, claiming that he could decide when his vote was actually needed. He may have forgotten to mention the absences to his constituents, but who can blame a guy as busy as he was for that small oversight.

An anomaly of Jon Cardin’s session was that he apparently ate many large breakfasts and lunches. I infer this because he claimed the maximum permissible meal allowance even though frequently he was not in Annapolis in the evening. 

Last week, just when you assumed he couldn’t make any more bad judgments, he happily posted a Facebook photo of himself with a donor at a fundraiser put on for him by a disbarred lawyer.  Forget the lawyer and focus on the donor, a person about to be indicted for human trafficking.  We might have chalked this latest misadventure up to poor staff work if it weren’t part of such a consistent pattern.

In each instance, Jon Cardin came up with an explanation, although it sometimes took a while.  The most telling is with regard to his meal allowance, where he insisted that what he had done was legal. You have to hope that the next Attorney General is committed to doing what is right, not just what is technically legal.

Jon Cardin has done something since the start of 2014 that I did not think was possible. He has taken an undistinguished record and tarnished it. 

Fortunately for Maryland voters, Brian Frosh is a candidate with both an impressive record of leadership in the General Assembly and the highest sense of ethics. Frosh, in his role as chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceeding Committee, has spoken out on the critical issues of the day and has been the floor leader who succeeded in getting many of the most important accomplishments of the General Assembly enacted.

When you consider the record that Martin O’Malley is touting in his bid for the presidency — abolition of the death penalty, tough gun control laws, marriage equality — Brian Frosh was one of the keys to Senate passage on all of them.

Frosh is one of those rare legislators who is willing to speak out even when there is lots of opposition because he thinks it’s the right thing to do. This past session, he led the effort to increase protection for victims of domestic violence. He has been a leading voice for the environment throughout his years in the General Assembly, including a ban on drilling for gas and oil in the Chesapeake Bay and the Maryland Recycling Act. 

It’s hard to imagine a person with better qualifications for the position of Attorney General than Brian Frosh. In addition to his credentials and record, he is well liked in the General Assembly and is respected as one who will listen and engage in dialogue even with people who disagree with him. He would step into office ready on Day One to be an active and energetic Attorney General.

If you were paying attention, you will have noticed that I never referred in this column to Jon Cardin by only his last name. I don’t want to add to the confusion that is obviously in some voters’ minds.   Make no mistake, Jon Cardin is no Ben Cardin.

We rarely have an election in which the gap in qualifications between two candidates is as large and significant as it is in this race.  Brian Frosh would make a great Attorney General.  If Jon Cardin were to get elected, it would be a real indictment of voters and the lack of attention they pay to campaigns.