The Washington Post

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — The office of the attorney general is one of the least understood and most powerful positions in Maryland state government, veterans of the position say.

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That’s why incoming attorney general Brian E. Frosh, a longtime state senator, sought advice from his three immediate predecessors — fellow Democrats and former attorneys general Stephen Sachs, J. Joseph Curran Jr. and Doug Gansler. Here is a sampling of what they said:

— “Heavy lifting done at staff level”

The attorney general is more a manager than anything else, juggling and assigning hundreds of cases to a massive staff, said Gansler. The smartest thing the former lawmaker can do, Gansler said, is surround himself with the best attorneys in the state.

“By and large, the nearly 460 lawyers in that office are some of the most dedicated, bright and diligent public servants,” said Gansler, who hired many of them. “These people … can make more money somewhere else, but they chose government.”

Early on, Gansler said, Frosh will have to divide his workload into two main functions: 1. Defending the state from lawsuits; and 2. Defining a proactive agenda.

He said Frosh’s success will depend on his employees doing “heavy lifting at the staff level.”

— Calling “balls and strikes”

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Curran’s 20-year tenure overlapped that of Republican governor Robert Ehrlich. His son-in-law, Democrat Martin O’Malley, ousted Ehrlich from office in 2006.

But Curran said pragmatism, rather than party politics, should guide Frosh in his dealings with Republican Gov.-elect Larry Hogan. The attorney general’s job, Curran said, “is to call balls and strikes.”

“Maryland people are middle-of-the-road people and they like to have compromise,” Curran said. “The fact that the governor-elect is a Republican makes no difference at all.”

— “(He) is going to make people mad.”

In nearly three decades in the state legislature, Frosh, 68, was known as a strident defender of Democratic values but never a bully.

Sachs, a close friend, said Frosh must prepare for a different role. “I used to tease him that as attorney general (he) is going to make people mad,” Sachs said.

In a light-hearted gesture, he gave Frosh a copy of Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince,” with an inscription. “Let’s not take the Prince too seriously,” Sachs wrote. “But sometimes, it is more important to be feared than loved” — particularly, when defending the people of Maryland.

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