The historic victory over Republican Michael A. Peroutka, a retired lawyer and one-term Anne Arundel County Council member, makes Brown, 60, the first African American elected to the position.
Brown’s win was one of several firsts for Maryland Democrats on Tuesday as Wes Moore became the first African American elected governor and Aruna Miller the first Indian American elected lieutenant governor.
Brooke Lierman is also poised to be the first woman elected comptroller after her opponent called her to concede and early returns showed she had a comfortable lead in the race.
The sweep puts Democrats in all of the state’s top leadership positions, where they will work with a state legislature also controlled by Democrats.
“Tonight, our state showed the country what Maryland’s values are all about. We reject hate, conspiracies, and division,” Brown said in a statement following the AP’s call. “We embrace our differences and see each of our neighbors as deserving of respect.”
The victory is the first statewide election Brown has won since he was upset in the 2014 gubernatorial race by Larry Hogan (R). While some in Maryland political circles cast Brown’s candidacy as an effort to seek redemption for that loss, Brown insisted otherwise, saying that attorney general is a job he has wanted all along, even before he was asked to run as Martin O’Malley’s lieutenant governor in 2005.
He gave up his safe congressional seat representing Maryland’s 4th District to run for attorney general because it was “an opportunity to make a bigger impact and draw on leading 550 lawyers on all the issues that I’ve worked on my entire life,” he said in an interview last month.
In his pitch to voters, Brown said he would attack violent crime by doubling the size of the attorney general’s organized crime unit and by strengthening relations with local state’s attorneys across Maryland. But he also emphasized that he would seek to reform the criminal and juvenile justice systems and work to make them more equitable. He wants to identify biases in Maryland’s criminal justice system that have led, he said, to an overincarceration of young Black men.
“Despite the progress we’ve made, too many barriers still exist for too many Marylanders — from health care and housing; to the impacts of our rapidly changing climate and education; to policing, and the criminal justice system,” Brown said in his victory statement. “We can build a more just and equitable Maryland, defend and expand upon the rights that generations have fought for, and lift up one another to reach our highest potential.”
Brown declared victory shortly after 9 p.m. with early results showing him with a comfortable lead over Peroutka.
A Harvard-trained lawyer and veteran who served in Iraq, Brown said during his campaign that as attorney general he would work to expand voting rights, crack down on ghost guns and possibly pursue legal action against gun manufacturers and work to decriminalize marijuana.
He also said he would protect abortion rights in Maryland, including the rights and privacy of women who come to Maryland from other states for abortions. Abortion and reproductive rights became a pivotal issue in many elections across the country following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June.
Peroutka opposed abortion, including in cases of rape or incest, and said if elected attorney general his view of Christianity would determine his decisions. He did not believe, for instance, that the state law allowing abortion was legitimate and said that “the higher calling would be to protect innocent life.”
Peroutka’s positions on abortion and a number of other issues probably cost him voters. He opposed same-sex marriage, said public schools were part of a socialist effort to indoctrinate students away from their parents and would not disavow his association with the League of the South, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has categorized as a hate group. At a League of the South conference in 2012, Peroutka sang “Dixie,” calling it “the national anthem.”
Peroutka did not reply to a request for comment on the election result.
Following his victory, Brown called on “public servants, citizens and neighbors” to work together to make a difference.
“We can build a more just and equitable Maryland, defend and expand upon the rights that generations have fought for, and lift up one another to reach our highest potential,” he said. “That’s our power, and together, we’ll accomplish great things.”