Press aide leaves Simms team

Jody Couser quits as campaign for attorney general appears to be in financial difficulty


Stuart O. Simms' campaign for Maryland attorney general suffered at least one, possibly more, staff departures yesterday as the organization struggled with paying its workers, according to sources familiar with the campaign.

Campaign sources differed on the meaning, if any, of the staff shakeup. Some said it was a sign of a financial problems. Others said it was a mere reshuffling.

Press secretary Jody Couser left her job yesterday, but she refused to discuss her departure except to say, "I am no longer affiliated with the campaign."

A separate source familiar with the Simms campaign said others have left because money was running short and campaign chairman Larry S. Gibson considered halting direct deposits of paychecks this week.

The source, who refused to be identified, said the campaign has spent much of the cash left over from Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan's gubernatorial campaign. Simms was Duncan's running mate until the county executive dropped out last month.

Neither Simms nor Gibson could be reached for comment. Marsha Koger, a Simms aide, said everyone was paid, and as far as she knew, Coser was the only person to leave her job.

Simms launched his bid for attorney general immediately after Duncan's departure. The former Baltimore state's attorney and state Cabinet secretary faces Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler and Montgomery County Councilman Thomas E. Perez in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary.

Antwaun Griffin, who became Simms' campaign manager after serving as Duncan's deputy manager, said that only Couser had quit. But he could not clearly define his own role yesterday.

"We're assessing everyone's roles, including myself. ... I was campaign manager up until now. ... I could step to the side and be an adviser," Griffin said.

He said that Gibson, a longtime political adviser, was becoming more active. But, he added, the campaign is still working out who will be in charge of day-to-day operations. "No one else has left," Griffin said. "It's not a sign of anything larger."

One Simms supporter and contributor, trial lawyer and Democratic activist Daniel Clements, said the candidate has no need of a large paid staff at this time. He said the attorney general's race is more likely to be affected by newspaper endorsements than by expensive investments such as get-out-the-vote drives.

"The only staff he needs is staff to raise money and get him on the air in early September," said Clements, who has known Simms for 28 years.

Sun reporters Michael Dresser and Andrea Siegel contributed to this article.

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