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As Long as We Remember...

September 6, 2006

The Democrat Primary for Attorney General

George Wenschhof

The race to be the Democrat's candidate for Maryland attorney general has had many twists and turns since speculation began well over a year ago that the current office holder - Joe Curran - would retire.

The winner of the primary will face Republican Scott Rolle, who is currently Frederick County State's Attorney and is unopposed in his primary.

It has been said that Mr. Curran, father-in-law of Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and the Democrat gubernatorial candidate, would not run again to assure that no conflict-of-interest could be argued in the governor's race.

As time went by several names popped up as possible Democratic Party candidates for attorney general. The prominent names were Glen Ivey, state's attorney for Prince George's County, Doug Gansler, state's attorney for Montgomery County, and Tom Perez, council member in Montgomery County.

Not one potential Democrat candidate would publicly proclaim their intensions prior to Mr. Curran's announcement that he was retiring. This was not only due to the respect they had for Mr. Curran, but also due to the fact that had he chosen to run he would have won.

One candidate, Doug Gansler, however, was actively raising large sums of cash, building a political organization, and constantly seeking media attention. He was focused like a laser beam on being the next Maryland attorney general, chomping at the bit waiting for Mr. Curran to announce his decision so he could announce his plans.

When Joe Curran finally spoke out on May 8, he did not endorse or throw his support behind any rumored candidate and he has still not endorsed any candidate.

At the time of the announcement Stuart (Stu) Simms had already answered the call to serve Marylanders, agreeing to be the lieutenant governor candidate with Doug Duncan, Montgomery County executive, who was running for governor.

Sure enough, by the end of June four Democrat candidates would file to be attorney general. Tom Perez started by filing on the 19th, followed by J. Wyndal Gordon from Prince George's County on the 26th - he has since withdrawn from the race - and Doug Gansler on the 28th. Glen Ivey would decide to seek another term.

The wild card in the race became Stuart Simms when Doug Duncan announced his withdrawal from the governor's race for health reasons on June 22. Mr. Simms officially filed his candidacy for attorney general on June 30. The filing deadline was July 3.

My first meeting with Mr. Gansler came at last year's annual Frederick County Democratic Party Picnic. You may remember that it was at this picnic that then Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty injected the "Black Book" into the contested Democrat mayoral race, a decision many felt backfired on her and helped former Mayor Ron Young capture the nomination.

During the picnic I remember someone relating a conversation between Mr. Gansler and a local Democrat he had just overheard. The person had asked him why he was here in Frederick and Mr. Gansler purportedly said - "See that reporter and camera over there - that's why I am here."

Mr. Gansler has a solid background beginning with his experience as an assistant U.S. attorney, where he says he learned about organizing by neighborhood. Most of his literature portrays him as a tough law-and-order type. He wants to enact a statewide RICO statute to help battle gangs and wants Truth-in Sentencing.

The last Article I read on campaign fundraising indicated Mr. Gansler had approximately $1 million on hand and had raised approximately $1.7 million. For more information on him you can go to his web site at

However, he is known as a camera hound and on November 20, 2003, he became the first prosecutor in the State of Maryland to be censured by the Maryland Court of Appeals. This resulted from pre-trial media statements on several high profile cases. More information on this can be found in a column written by Blair Lee, a columnist with the Gazette dated December 5, 2003, entitled "Message to Gansler: Please shut up." The link to this column is

I met Mr. Perez at a private party on his behalf shortly after his announcement. I would see him again in Frederick on several occasions as he was campaigning. He seemed to be picking up support and the last financial report indicated he had raised over $500,000.

However, his eligibility to be on the ballot was questioned immediately after he filed. The Maryland Constitution requires that an attorney general candidate have 10 years experience practicing law in the state. The statement coming out of the Maryland Attorney General's office indicated that Mr. Perez met the requirements because of his federal experience.

Interestingly, a Republican candidate for state comptroller, Stephen Abrams, filed suit stating that Mr. Perez did not meet the requirements. A lower court heard the argument and ruled that Mr. Perez did meet the requirements and Mr. Abrams appealed.

On August 25, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that Mr. Perez was not eligible. This decision came too late for the Maryland Board of Elections to change the ballots, so signs will be placed in each polling location informing voters that votes for Mr. Perez will not be counted.

Mr. Perez accepted the court decision with disappointment and then asked his supporters to cast their ballot for another. He then endorsed Mr. Simms for attorney general and asked his supporters to vote for him. He also indicated that he would be sending a check to Mr. Simms and will be looking to put together a full page ad in support of Mr. Simms for attorney general.

I met Stu Simms at the annual Frederick County Democrat's Jefferson/Jackson Day Dinner at the Elks Cub in the spring when he was still a candidate for lieutenant governor.

Although he entered this race late, he is well known and respected across Maryland. He has an impressive background working for the U.S. Attorney's office and then as deputy state's attorney for Baltimore City before serving as that city's top prosecutor for eight years. He also was secretary of Maryland's Department of Juvenile Services and also as Maryland Public Safety and Correctional Services secretary.

On his web site he talks about some issues important to him. He wants to protect the vulnerable, the elderly, the disabled and children. He feels we must guard against corporate excess, fraud and abuse and shield the environment from those who pollute. He also believes in defending the civil rights of every Marylander. For more information on Mr. Simms visit his web site at

He has also picked up powerful endorsements from Reps. Steny Hoyer and Elijah Cummings, Prince George's State's Attorney Glen Ivey, Maryland Senate President Mike Miller, and former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke. And Baltimore's Sun has endorsed Mr. Simms for attorney general. He has raised more than $200,000 in a little over a month and has approximately $65,000 cash on hand.

After all these twists and turns this Democrat primary race for attorney general is now down to two people - Stuart Simms and Doug Gansler, both of whom have solid backgrounds that have prepared them for this position. It will be competitive, but in the end Mr. Simms will win by at least five points and go on to meet Republican Rolle.

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