Attorney general

Maryland Votes 2006

September 03, 2006

Today The Sun continues its endorsements for the Sept. 12 primary election with races for state comptroller and attorney general.

Marylanders have grown accustomed to having an experienced, principled and independent leader in the state attorney general's office. The unflappable J. Joseph Curran Jr. was well-suited for that role, but his decision to retire this year after two decades in office offers voters an opportunity to choose a successor with comparable skill and integrity. Among the Democratic candidates for attorney general, the choice is obvious - thanks to a twist of fate in an eventful election year.

Stuart O. Simms, the former state's attorney for Baltimore, was originally tapped by gubernatorial candidate Douglas M. Duncan to serve as his running mate. The Montgomery County executive's decision to drop out of the race in June allowed Mr. Simms to belatedly enter the race for attorney general.

A graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard University School of Law, Mr. Simms has brought intellect and level-headedness to a wide variety of important jobs, from his days as staff counsel to U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes to his years in Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Cabinet, where he served initially as secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice and later as secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

His pursuit of a new Juvenile Justice Center in Baltimore proved one of the smarter moves in the department's history. During his tenure in public safety, he rejuvenated the criminal injuries compensation commission and launched Maryland's sexual offense registry, a program that continues to improve.

If elected attorney general, Mr. Simms has promised to bolster local law enforcement efforts to attack the problems of gang violence, street crime and drug trafficking and would go so far as to designate members of his staff to serve as prosecutors, investigators or auditors at the city and county level. He opposes slot machines and casino-style gambling in Maryland, and while he personally objects to the death penalty (as does Mr. Curran), he has pledged to uphold the law as required by his office. And he envisions opportunities to team with other state attorneys general to help resolve issues of national importance such as energy pricing, affordable health care, and air and water pollution. But ultimately, Mr. Simms notes, he's charged with upholding the law, advising state agencies and looking out for the interests of the citizens of Maryland. We could not agree with him more.

Mr. Simms has been criticized for his low-key style, and it is certainly a contrast to his well-financed and media-savvy opponent, Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler. (A third Democratic candidate, Montgomery County Councilman Tom Perez, was eliminated from the race by the Maryland Court of Appeals for failing to meet a provision of the state constitution that requires an attorney general to have practiced law in the state for 10 years.) But Mr. Gansler lacks Mr. Simms' breadth of experience and moderate temperament that is better suited for this critical role.

There is no Republican primary.

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