Simms joining another battle


Stuart O. Simms, the former Baltimore prosecutor who held two Maryland Cabinet positions in the Glendening administration, will announce his candidacy for Maryland attorney general tomorrow, injecting fresh competition into the Democratic primary.

Marsha Koger, a spokeswoman for the Simms campaign, confirmed that the 55-year-old Baltimore attorney has decided to run for the seat left open by retiring Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.

The news comes less than a week after Simms' run for lieutenant governor ended with the abrupt withdrawal of his running mate, Douglas M. Duncan, from the governor's race. Duncan, the Montgomery County executive, said clinical depression was his reason for quitting.

Simms, who did not return a call for comment, reached out to some of his key supporters yesterday, confirming that he will run for attorney general. He is scheduled to announce his candidacy at a news conference in front of the Mitchell Courthouse, where he once presided over prosecutions as the Baltimore state's attorney.

"I don't know anyone who wouldn't see him as the perfect candidate," said Sen. Lisa Gladden, a Baltimore Democrat. "This is a guy who has a proven track record," she added. "Stu was a prosecutor and [Cabinet] secretary. And I think that his diverse experience and his commitment to government and to good government ... hold him in high regard with many people in the state of Maryland."

A key question that remained unanswered yesterday was whether Simms will have access to some or all of the $700,000 or so in Duncan's campaign coffers.

A source close to the campaign said lawyers were examining the legality of a transfer. But noting Simms' reputation for caution and prudence, Arthur Murphy, a veteran political consultant from Baltimore, said Simms must have been assured of the funds or he would not have jumped into the race.

Simms originally agreed to join Duncan's gubernatorial campaign a week after Curran announced that he would not seek re-election.

Now he will join a crowded primary field that includes Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler and Montgomery County Councilman Thomas E. Perez. As of January, Gansler had raised $1.5 million in campaign funds, while Perez had about $230,000.

J. Wyndal Gordon, a 36-year-old Baltimore attorney, said yesterday that he filed Monday to run for attorney general. The political neophyte grew up in Prince George's County and said he splits his time between Baltimore and Fort Washington.

Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle is the leading Republican candidate.

Simms' decision to run follows a strong lobbying effort by Democrats who wanted to see an experienced candidate from the Baltimore area enter the race. The former prosecutor, who is black, adds geographic and racial diversity to the race, supporters and political observers said.

Along with Gladden's support, Simms will get endorsements from other prominent Democrats, including Sen. Delores G. Kelley of Baltimore County, Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy and Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller of Prince George's County.

"I'm looking forward to campaigning for him," said Miller. "He's a great role model for everybody, a very bright, hardworking person who is also very gentle and very thoughtful. I think he'll be a great asset for the Democratic ticket. "His educational background, as well as his experience, trumps any other candidate in the race."

Some political observers believe the race will hinge largely on name recognition - and that Simms' brief campaign with Duncan helped in that regard.

"Voters are probably going to cast a primary ballot on the basis of name recognition and who they're most familiar with," said James Gimpel, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland. "So that suggests there will be some pretty strong regional biases."

Endorsements will also play an important role, said Gimpel. "Voters are going to be casting about for whatever information they can seize upon to decide."

Curran has said he will not endorse a candidate in the race.

Described as understated and conscientious, Simms grew up in Baltimore, the son of a schoolteacher and a steelworker. He graduated from the Gilman School, and earned degrees from Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School.

Simms was appointed Baltimore's state's attorney in 1987 and was re-elected to the position twice. He has also held two Cabinet positions. Under former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, he headed the Department of Juvenile Services and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

He is an attorney in private practice in Baltimore, where he lives with his wife, Candace.

Simms' Democratic competitors welcomed him to the race. "We welcome him into the debate that's going to happen about the ideas and the vision for the office," said Luke Clippinger, campaign manager for Perez.

Mike Morrill, a spokesman for Gansler, said the campaign felt no additional pressure from Simms' entry.

"We have to make sure that people know all the great things that Doug has done," said Morrill. "We expect to continue to take his message to the voters of Maryland."

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