Perez gives support, funds to Simms

Court rules that ex-candidate's name will stay on ballot because it's too late to change

Maryland votes 2006

August 30, 2006|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,sun reporter

Takoma park -- Four days after being removed by the Maryland Court of Appeals as a Democratic candidate for attorney general, Thomas E. Perez yesterday embraced Stuart O. Simms, a former Baltimore state's attorney, in the primary election.

But the state's highest court said yesterday that Perez's name will remain on the ballot - with notices at the polls warning that he is no longer a candidate.

Greeting about 80 supporters at what he referred to as "my funeral," Perez said that Simms' background prepares him for the role of "looking out for the underdog, the most vulnerable."

In backing Simms, Perez, a one-term Montgomery County councilman, eschewed Montgomery's State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler. The winner of the primary is expected to face Republican Scott L. Rolle, the Frederick County state's attorney, in the contest to succeed longtime incumbent Democrat J. Joseph Curran Jr.

Perez had been considered the most liberal of the three contenders in the primary race, and had the backing of most unions and progressive groups.

Asked if he would financially aid Simms, whose campaign had about $66,000 two weeks ago, Perez said, "I've already bought an ad," referring to a forthcoming advertisement in the monthly Takoma Park and Silver Spring Voice newspapers in support of Simms.

Perez can transfer up to $6,000 to Simms - who had been the running mate of Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan until late June, when Duncan ended his gubernatorial candidacy because of a health problem. Duncan gave $6,000 to the Simms campaign.

The endorsement of Simms came a few hours before the Court of Appeals modified Friday's order that Perez be removed from the ballot. It had ruled him ineligible to serve as attorney general because he had not been a practicing Maryland lawyer for the 10 years required by the Maryland Constitution.

Perez has been a member of the state bar since 2001, but argued that as a federal lawyer for years before then, he was able to appear in courts in all states - Maryland included.

State elections officials said they could not remove Perez's name from the ballot in time for the Sept. 12 election. The court yesterday accepted their proposal to keep his name on the ballot and warn that votes for him would not be counted.

"It would be impossible to redo the entire election in less than two weeks," said Linda H. Lamone, the state's elections administrator.

The decision left the Simms and Perez camps, which maintained that the technology should exist to readily remove Perez from the ballot, grimacing.

"We will do the best we can to educate the citizens so they can vote effectively," said Simms campaign manager Larry Gibson.

An absentee voter who has already cast a ballot for Perez can request a second absentee ballot.

"This race is a jump ball," Perez told supporters in his announcement at the Takoma Park Community Center. "And Stu Simms is going to win that jump ball."

Gansler spokesman Mike Morrill said some Perez supporters, such as Montgomery County Sheriff Ray Kight, have turned to Gansler.

The state AFL-CIO has scheduled an announcement today to endorse Simms.

Elections experts said Perez's endorsement and the shifting dynamics of the race are likely to boost Simms more than Gansler.

"I think this is going to be a close one. But ... Perez's endorsement gives Simms an edge along with the composition of the Democratic Party electorate," said Matthew Crenson, a Johns Hopkins University political scientist.

Sun reporter Melissa Harris contributed to this article.

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