Maryland's attorney general admitted Thursday he is second guessing himself after a photograph emerged showing him at high school graduation party where there may have been underage drinking.
Doug Gansler, a Democratic candidate for governor, says he should have assumed there was underage drinking at a party his son was attending last June in Delaware and investigated it further.
Gansler says he now regrets not assuming there was underage drinking at the party in Bethany Beach and should have checked with the chaperones at the party.
The gubernatorial candidate says he went to the party to check on his son, he was there as a parent and saw nothing that raised his concern.
The attorney general met with reporters for about 30 minutes Thursday after a picture of him at the party was printed on the front page of the Baltimore Sun.
Gansler can be seen standing in a room filled with young people holding a phone in front of his face.
In the photograph, young people are dancing and drinking out of red plastic cups which are commonly used for alcohol at parties.
"In hindsight now, I probably should have assumed there was drinking and talked to the chaperones about what was appropriate, but I wasn't there to make a decision whether there was drinking or not and that’s really what I was there to do," said Gansler.
The Democratic candidate for governor says his son was a DJ at the party and he was only there to tell him what time they were leaving in the morning.
Although the photo appears to show the attorney general taking pictures with his phone, Gansler says, in fact, he was reading a text.
"What I could have done is investigated whether there was drinking going on and then taken action on that and I probably should have done that,” he said. “In hindsight certainly, what I did do is go through there to talk to my son and leave and make sure he was fine, which I wasn't really worried about because I trust him and I know him.”
In Bethesda Thursday at Gansler's old stomping grounds, Mark Spradley says he is shocked to learn Gansler talked to his son, who was a party DJ, and then left while the party continued.
"It's every parent's job to do what we can to keep all kids safe,” Spradley says. “If I saw the AG's son drinking and he was underage, I would certainly speak up. That's what we expect from someone who wants to represent the people of Maryland.”
It unclear what the kids were drinking and Gansler says he did not see any inappropriate behavior when he was at the party.
"It was outrageous. I think he has to be above reproach. What kind of role model would he be to our young people?" says Kelly Heller.
Gansler defended his record on issues involving alcohol and said his judgment and integrity have only come into question since he announced his plans to run for governor.
"We are in it, we are going to win it,” said Gansler. “People in Maryland want someone with character, record, judgment, vision, and authenticity who is genuine and who is going to take the state forward."
According to the latest polls, Gansler's gubernatorial campaign was in trouble before that photo was published. Some analysts have him trailing Lt. Governor Anthony Brown by more than 20 percentage points and the primary does not even happen until next June.
George Washington University Associate Professor Lara Brown of the Graduate School of Political Management says Gansler may have a difficult time recovering from this latest hit, especially in light of recent reports about how he allegedly mistreats his security detail and how he handled a speeding ticket in D.C.
"If you look as though you are irresponsible or incompetent, people have no desire to trust you with their vote," Brown says. "I think he could very well be done. I think his campaign was already running on fumes and it will be really hard to sustain this effort.”
The attorney general told reporters he knows where these stories are coming from. He signed up to run for governor and it comes with the territory.