Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler was in high school when he caught the bug for public service.
It happened while interning on Capitol Hill, he said.
Working in the offices of former U.S. Sens. Birch E. Bayh Jr. (D-Ind.) and William Warren “Bill” Bradley (D-N.J.), Gansler said, he was able to work for people he “believed in” as they strove to make the world a better place.
In the years since, Gansler said, he has built a career in public service, fighting to protect people, to help those who need it and to fight for fairness.
Since 2007, Gansler has served Maryland as its attorney general, the state’s chief legal officer. Before being elected attorney general, he spent eight years as state’s attorney in Montgomery County. Before that, he was an assistant U.S. attorney. He has his law degree from University of Virginia and his bachelor’s from Yale.
“I’m 51 years old, but I believe deeply in public service, in the power of government to make people’s lives better,” he said. “So I guess I haven’t gotten the healthy dose of cynicism that others get yet.”
Talking across a chipped laminate table in Bethesda’s iconic Tastee Diner, Gansler said he is “just a regular person who grew up in Maryland.”
But to voters, he is one of the Democrats vying to be the state’s next governor. Gansler faces a field that includes Del. Heather R. Mizeur and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown in the June 24 primary.
After eight years as attorney general, running for governor was the next step, Gansler said.
Gansler said his mantra has always been to do the right thing, for the right reasons.
“What makes me uniquely qualified versus the people I’m running against, for example, is that I actually have a track record of getting things done, seeing a problem, finding the solution, bringing people together to resolve that problem,” he said. “I’m not somebody who goes along to get along.”
Under his leadership as attorney general, he said his office returned $1.5 billion to Maryland to keep residents in their homes during the foreclosure crisis, returned another $2 billion to consumers and prosecuted polluters of the Chesapeake Bay. Gansler said he also started the first civil rights division in the state.
As state’s attorney, a countywide elected position, he said he established the office’s first gang unit and started community-based prosecution, a system of prosecuting by neighborhood rather than by crime.
While he prosecuted Washington, D.C., snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, Gansler said his proudest achievement was the quality and diversity of people he brought to the office.
If elected governor, Gansler said he would build an administration that reflects his commitment to quality and diversity. And he started with his lieutenant governor, Prince George’s County Del. Jolene Ivey of Cheverly.
“I believe our government institutions should look like the people they represent,” he said.
A mother of five, an African-American and a House representative of Maryland’s 47th legislative district, Ivey not only shares Gansler’s passion and vision for the state, but also has fresh ideas and has the respect of her colleagues, Gansler said.
“If you can raise five boys, then you can be the lieutenant governor,” he said.
Among the issues a Gansler-Ivey administration would tackle include jobs, the minority achievement gap, transportation, public safety and the environment, which he said is his passion.
“My plan is all about seeing the problem, finding the solution and getting it done and making sure our state is fair and that we fight for people,” he said. “We will look to places where there is fundamental lack of fairness and fight for the people that need the help and get things done.”
Puzzled by politicians who fail to deliver on their promises, Gansler said he has always delivered on each and every one of his promises and if elected, he and Ivey would do the same.
When not on the campaign trail or representing the state as attorney general, Gansler said he is with his wife Laura and two sons.
“My two boys are my heroes,” he said. “My nuclear family is the nucleus of my life as well.”
You might also find him playing lacrosse, leading his book club, or coaching his sons Samuel and William in their various sports.