When Jeffrey N. Pritzker ran in the 2002 primary for attorney general, his love of — and frustration with — Maryland got him into the race.
Now, 12 years later, a similar love and frustration has the Republican running again — this time, “to see if I can make a difference,” he said.
“I see what has happened to our great state, which is really a wonderful, beautiful state,” he said. “It’s a little bit of anything anybody could ask for, and people don’t want to stay here. Things can be changed and that is really why I decided to run.”
Pritzker, 65, an attorney in general practice for 40 years, faces Democratic state Sen. Brian E. Frosh of Somerset and Libertarian Leo Wayne Dymowski of Dundalk in the Nov. 4 general election.
The failings of Maryland’s health care exchange was a key motivating factor for Pritzker to run, he said.
Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) should have investigated the botched rollout and sued whoever was responsible for the failure to recover some or all of the more than $230 million the state spent on the exchange, Pritzker said.
“In Maryland, because of the supermajority of Democrats, we just have no checks and balances on what goes on,” he said.
If elected, Pritzker said, he’d be independent of the Democratic power structure in Annapolis and would work for what benefits the people of the state, such as challenging the rain tax, as critics describe the stormwater management fee.
“When I tell people across the country about a rain tax, they can’t believe it and they find it humorous at best and ridiculous at worst,” he said.
Pritzker pointed to a federal court case in Virginia, where a judge ruled that stormwater is not a pollutant, therefore the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has no authority to regulate it.
“I question whether the federal EPA should have the right to mandate a tax on Maryland citizens,” he said. If elected, he said, “we will do everything we can to investigate.”
A Republican would have a tough time in a one-party state, since the attorney general represents the governor and the legislature, Pritzker said.
“However, I intend to use the office as a bully pulpit, which it should be, and to at least express opinions as to what is going on,” he said. “And, hopefully, the legislature will follow along with some of my proposals and some of my plans to investigate certain things. We need some balance and right now we have none.”
As Pritzker travels the state, he said, voters tell him they are fed up with the number of taxes and fees in Maryland.
Opposed to what he calls “stealth taxes” — which go up gradually over many years or increase with inflation — Pritzker pledged to advocate for a regulation requiring that taxes go up in the year in which they are approved.
Transparency, he said, would help the people of Maryland.
“I’m going to be the attorney general for the people of the state of Maryland, not for the Annapolis politicians,”he said. “That is a huge change.”
He said he would also work to expand the mediation section of the office, so those with small claims can avoid court.
Pritzker said too many Marylanders are leaving or considering leaving the state and many have given up hope that the state can change.
“I don’t want people to leave,” he said. “I don’t want to leave. Things can change.”
Pritzker has a law degree from the University of Maryland Law School and a bachelor’s degree from Franklin and Marshall College.
He and his wife, Ann Scott, are the parents of four adult children and live in Phoenix, Md.