Simms on board with Duncan

Statewide ticket offers `visionary leadership,' says former state's attorney

Maryland Votes 2006


Former Baltimore state's attorney Stuart O. Simms made his debut as gubernatorial candidate Douglas M. Duncan's running mate yesterday with a pitch to bring substance over style to the race for the Democratic nomination.

"I observed in Doug a man of passion for public service, a man who puts purpose over style, a man who can help Maryland and take it to the next level and a man with a desire to truly help the people of this state," said Simms, 55, yesterday before about 100 supporters in a function hall at the New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore. "And I'm humbled and proud that he saw in me that same desire."

Duncan's lieutenant governor selection was a long time coming. His campaign said in December that Duncan would make an announcement before the beginning of the 90-day General Assembly session in January, an effort to quash any momentum Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley might have gained in selecting Del. Anthony G. Brown of Prince George's County as his running mate late last year.

Duncan, who has trailed O'Malley in polls and fundraising, took aim at naysayers who have wondered if he was having trouble persuading someone to run with him.

"I've got to say, he who picks first does not always pick best," Duncan, the Montgomery County executive, said to applause.

Every Duncan supporter to take the microphone hammered home the point about substance over style, a not-so-subtle reference to O'Malley, 43, and Brown, 44, a younger and relatively flashier duo. Duncan, a large man who has made "Think Bigger" a campaign theme, is 50.

Former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke called Duncan and Simms "big guys with big ideas." Sen. Delores G. Kelley, a Baltimore County Democrat, said, "We need to decide whether boyish good looks will be the main criteria for our next governor."

Even the Rev. John Wright of the First Baptist Church of Guilford got into the spirit when he offered the event's prayer. "We need more than just `look good,'" he said. "We need substance."

Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., an O'Malley supporter, said he thinks Duncan's strategy to pitch himself as the only candidate of substance in the race is not just misleading, but it also is not going to work.

"I just know from my experience with the mayor, as a councilperson and as mayor, that he's definitely not a lightweight," Mitchell said. "And I think his record shows that he's not a lightweight."

Simms, known to associates for his thoughtful, measured approach to his work, showed he is willing to play the role most critical for any lieutenant governor candidate: attack dog.

Simms defended Duncan's criticisms of Baltimore and how the city has been managed - attacks that O'Malley supporters have decried. Simms said that to address the problems facing Baltimore - failing schools and persistent crime, among them - leaders cannot put their heads in the sand.

"These are challenges that require serious, sober, focused, visionary leadership," he said. "Let me be clear: Doug Duncan is pro-Maryland; Doug Duncan is pro-Baltimore. Pro-Maryland means pro-Baltimore."

The campaign held a similar announcement event midday in Largo.

Duncan was joined by his wife and mother yesterday. Also present were Del. Adrienne A. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat and House speaker pro tem; and State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, both of whom Duncan considered for running mate. Jessamy, who has butted heads with O'Malley, gave a fiery speech in support of Duncan and Simms. She said Maryland needs a team that "places policy over press events."

"This is a real team," she said. "This is not just a team for show."

Political experts question Duncan's strategy of choosing a Baltimore resident over someone who might have helped the county executive win crucial votes in Prince George's County, which is widely viewed as the key battleground in the Democratic primary. The county has the greatest percentage of primary voters of any jurisdiction in Maryland. Baltimore is O'Malley's home turf, and the mayor continues to poll well here.

Matthew A. Crenson, chairman of the political science department at the Johns Hopkins University, said Duncan's best move might have been selecting a running mate from Prince George's County. But he said that with O'Malley polling well in the Washington suburbs, Duncan could be shifting from his home territory and toward Baltimore in the quest for votes.

Simms grew up in Baltimore, the son of a schoolteacher and a steelworker. He was captain of his football team at the prestigious Gilman School. He holds degrees from Dartmouth College, where he also led the football team, and Harvard Law School.

In 1987, Simms was picked to serve as Baltimore's deputy state's attorney under Schmoke, who would go on to become the city's mayor and a longtime friend of Simms. In 1987, Simms was appointed to the state's attorney job and was re-elected twice.

Simms has held two Cabinet posts - heading the Department of Juvenile Services and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services - under former Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Simms, now in private practice with a Baltimore firm, lives in the city with his wife, Candace.

Paul Simms, a New York investment banker in New York and one of the family's two sons, said that he was shocked to learn that his father is making a foray back into public life but that he is ready for the challenge.

"It's amazing to me how calm he is, even now," said Paul Simms, 23.

But Stuart Simms managed to conclude his remarks with a rousing - if not at first perplexing - call to action.

"The cakeman and the fullback are here," Simms said, a reference - he later acknowledged - to Duncan Hines cake mixes, and Simms' days on the football field. "Let's go. Let's do this."

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