Duncan re-emerges to join Simms at a campaign stop

Maryland Votes 2006

August 19, 2006|By SUMATHI REDDY | SUMATHI REDDY,SUN REPORTER

ROCKVILLE -- There they were again, political partners standing side by side, shaking hands and hollering at commuters at commuters at an ungodly hour of the morning.

Only this time it wasn't Democratic gubernatorial candidate Douglas M. Duncan and his running mate, attorney Stuart O. Simms. It was Simms for state attorney general and Duncan making a campaign appearance on behalf of the man he picked for his ticket months ago.

The outing marked a notably public step in Duncan's gradual re-emergence after his abrupt departure from the governor's race on June 22. Coming after a diagnosis of clinical depression, Duncan's exit left Simms' fate in the air.

Appearing slightly tired and low-key, Duncan, 50, stood by Simms for more than two hours yesterday at the Shady Grove Metro station, in the heart of a county where Duncan has served as elected executive for the past 12 years. His third term is ending, and he is not seeking re-election.

Sounding almost like a skipping record, Duncan repeated: "Stu Simms for attorney general. Stu Simms for attorney general."

A vigorous candidate on the trail of his own campaign this year, Duncan appeared shy and distant at times yesterday, walking with a slight limp because of an ailing hip (He said he would be getting hip replacement surgery soon).

When he withdrew from the gubernatorial contest, Duncan immediately endorsed his former competitor in the primary, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley. But he has kept a low profile ever since.

Yesterday, Duncan said he would make more campaign appearances on behalf of Simms, including some in the Baltimore area. And he said he has been back in the office every day and is feeling better. Technically, however, Duncan remains on leave and has no public schedule, spokesman David Weaver said.

"We're taking it slow," said Duncan. "I've been in the office for a few weeks now, and I'm starting to do some public stuff.

"We're getting there."

Though most of the rush-hour commuters whizzed by Simms and Duncan, several did a double take when they saw Duncan, stopping to shake hands or give him a hug.

"You look good," said one woman, clasping his hand.

"Yeah, I'm feeling better," he told her.

Another commuter pointed at him and said, "I want to vote for you."

Some were unaware that he was no longer a candidate.

"I've had some health issues," he explained. "I'm taking some time off.

Duncan said he was happy to help Simms on the campaign trail, saying he encouraged the former Baltimore state's attorney to run for the position being vacated by retiring Democratic incumbent J. Joseph Curran Jr. when Duncan decided to drop out.

"I think Stu's great; that's why we picked him," Duncan said. "He's someone who listens. We don't have enough of that in politicians."

Simms faces a tough Democratic primary as the late entry in a three-way race. Also running in the primary are two Montgomery County officials: Councilman Thomas E. Perez and State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler.

The Simms campaign is hoping that Duncan's presence will help him gain votes in Montgomery County, where he is relatively unknown and his rivals have established voter bases.

Montgomery County Deputy State's Attorney John McCarthy, who is running in the Democratic primary for Gansler's job, was also at the Shady Grove station campaigning yesterday.

McCarthy said he was pleased to see Duncan. "I think he got a kick out of Simms," McCarthy said. "They were out there having fun."

McCarthy said he saw Duncan on July 16 at a picnic held by Plowman and Fisherman, a Democratic club. "He looked pretty much the way you saw him today," said McCarthy. Earlier this week, Duncan attended a campaign fundraiser for Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, who had endorsed his gubernatorial bid, Weaver said.

In another sign that the Duncan family is rousing from its hibernation, his family's campaign blog (http:--www.duncansfordoug) posted its first entry last week since his withdrawal from the race.

In the Aug. 7 entry, his sister, Eleanor "Nellie" Lide of Rockville, writes, "Sorry we haven't posted since Doug left the race. We've been kind of down about the whole thing too."

She ends the entry with: "I'm probably going to still write-in Doug's name on primary day. Some of us have a hard time accepting reality."

But Duncan seemed just fine yesterday in his new role, campaigning for another candidate. He said it did not feel at all awkward to be in the supporting role.

"I've been doing this all my life," he said, smiling.

"Doug, you running for governor?" a man asked, approaching him.

"Not anymore," he replied. "I have to find a job in November."

sumathi.reddy@baltsun.com

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