Big Fish Q&A with Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler

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Tangentially and directly, the political fortunes of Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler have been bound up with those of Governor Martin O’Malley and his extended familial clan. Back in 1998, for example, Gansler defeated O’Malley’s father, Thomas, to become state’s attorney for Montgomery County, after the elder O’Malley, curiously, switched parties to run as a Republican. Eight years later, Gansler assumed his current post, succeeding longtime Attorney General Joseph Curran, O’Malley’s father-in-law and First Lady/Judge Katie O’Malley’s father. Now, midway through his second term, Gansler is mooted as the man most likely to move into Annapolis’ Government House when O’Malley vacates the mansion in January 2015.

Although Ganlser has not officially announced his gubernatorial candidacy, neither has he pooh-poohed the possibility. Sometimes quietly, sometimes blaringly, Gansler, in his role as attorney general, has established a statewide reputation by aggressively prosecuting mortgage fraud, gang activity, environmental polluters, and civil-rights violators, while nurturing a nascent national rep as the incoming president of the National Association of Attorneys General. Not incidentally, his standing campaign committee has amassed a significant war chest to fund a future run for office. 

Born in Summit, N.J., Douglas F. Gansler (the “F” stands for “Friend”) moved with his family to Montgomery County when he was nine. He “proudly graduated from Chevy Chase Elementary School,” he reports with a smidgen of humor, and then moved on to Sidwell Friends School, excelling on its lacrosse team. Gansler graduated cum laude in 1985 from Yale University, where he was selected all-Ivy League and all-New England in lacrosse. In 1989, he earned a law degree from the University of Virginia. After clerking for a judge and briefly practicing law privately, Gansler served as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia under now-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr., from 1992 to 1998.    

Now 49, Gansler lives in Bethesda (“within five miles of where I grew up”) with his wife, Laura — a securities attorney at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority; co-author of the 2002 book Class Action, on which the 2005 Charlize Theron film North Country is based; and author of the 2005 book The Mysterious Private Thompson, a biography of cross-dressing Civil War hero Sarah Emma Edmonds — and their lacrosse-playing sons, 17-year-old Sam and 14-year-old Will. He works out of the Office of the Attorney General in downtown Baltimore.

Extracurricularly, Gansler coaches lacrosse in Bethesda, and, in 2009, launched Charm City Youth Lacrosse, which, according to its website, “provides lacrosse-skills training, league play, and mentoring to underserved” kids in Baltimore City — free of charge. More cerebrally, Gansler founded a book club, the Oracle Society, in 1989. The group has remained active ever since. As Gansler told to The Daily Record two years ago, “This is reading for enjoyment and then intellectual discussion…. It takes me out of the issues of my day and into somebody else’s story.”

 

Sum up your life philosophy in one sentence.   

Never be in a bad mood.

When did you define your most important goals, and what are they?  

Be a good husband and dad.

What is the best advice you ever got that you followed

The best currency is not money but what is in your heart and how you spend it.

The worst advice, and did you follow it? Or how did you muffle it? 

You don’t need a good left-handed shot [in lacrosse] since you can get by on speed. I muffled it by learning how to play lefty on the squash courts my first two years of college.

What are the three most surprising truths you’ve discovered in your lifetime?

1) Kids grow up really fast.

2) It is harder to lose weight when you get older.

3) Some people in politics truly are in it for the wrong reasons.

What is the best moment of the day? 

The best time of day is when I walk through the front door of my house at the end of the day or night.

What is on your bedside table? 

My latest book club book: A Visit From the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan.

What is your favorite local charity? 

Charm City Youth Lacrosse.

What advice would you give a young person who aspires to do what you are doing? 

Do the right things for the right reasons and don’t compromise your values.

Why are you successful?

As clichéd as it might seem, I truly believe that government can make a positive difference for people.  

What do you consider to be the state’s most vexing fraud issue? Why? How is the Attorney General’s Office solving the problem?

The fraud perpetrated by the national banks in the foreclosure crisis, which directly led to the severe economic downturn. As a member and president-elect of the National Association of Attorneys General, my chief objective is providing relief to troubled homeowners as quickly as possible while preserving the flexibility to criminally prosecute offenders.

Which legislative initiative will you and your office work the hardest to pass in the 2012 General Assembly session? Why is this the most important issue? 

Same-sex marriage in Maryland. As the first statewide elected official to support same-sex marriage, I have fought for this fundamental right for years. It is an important issue because the current law clearly violates the United States Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and deprives many Marylanders of the basic privilege of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Describe the innate appeal of lacrosse. What distinguishes the sport from football, baseball, basketball, et al? Do your sons play lacrosse?

I have played lacrosse for over 35 years; both of my sons play at a high level; and I have coached for over 25 years. Marylanders are smarter than other people, because we recognize lacrosse as our official state team sport. It is elegant, physical, goal-producing, and fast. I started Charm City Youth Lacrosse three years ago because I believe that inner-city Baltimore kids should enjoy the same access to lacrosse as the kids who live in all the surrounding areas. 

 



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  1. Kids grow up really fast. Love it, so true. 4 teens in our household. Remember Doug from before the flood – vaguely. Took him to a high school dance… hung out here and there. I believe he called me “burn out”. Glad I grew out of whatever prompted that. Learned what “on a lark” meant when he used it to explain some antics to my parents…. it got a few of us out of an unexplained co-ed sleepover. All very innocent, of course. Gotta laugh now.

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