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Gansler Wins Endorsements, Perez Wins Legal Battle

U.S. Rep. Albert Wynn and Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson will endorse Doug Gansler's bid for state attorney general at a press conference Wednesday morning.

The endorsements could provide a boost for the Montgomery County state's attorney, who is locked in a three-man race for the Democratic nomination. Prince George's is home to more registered Democrats than any other Maryland county. Baltimore lawyer Stuart O. Simms has the backing of Prince George's chief prosecutor, Glenn F. Ivey.

Another candidate, Montgomery County Councilman Tom Perez, got a boost of his campaign Monday, when a judge ruled that Perez is eligible to run for the statewide seat because his service in the Justice Department satisfies a requirement that candidates have a decade of legal experience in the state.

Judge Paul A. Hackner's decision, which arrived at the same conclusion that Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. (D) stated in an opinion issued in May, ends for now an effort by another Montgomery official to force Perez off the ballot.

Perez's work as a Justice Department official, along with other experience, satisfies a legal requirement that a person seeking to be attorney general have "practiced law" in the state for at least 10 years, Hackner said in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

Stephen N. Abrams (R-Rockville-Potomac), the Board of Education member who challenged Perez's candidacy, said he considers an appeal unlikely. Abrams, a candidate for state comptroller, had argued that Perez was ineligible because he was admitted to the Maryland bar just five years ago.

Perez, Gansler and Simms are vying for the Democratic nomination to replace Curran, who is retiring. The winner is expected to face Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle (R), the candidate Abrams is backing, in November.

Perez said he had studied the requirement in the state constitution and was confident he was eligible. He also consulted with Curran's office, which issued the opinion supporting his position. "Joe Curran agreed, and now a trial judge has agreed," Perez said.

Meanwhile, Simms' campaign has been rocked by the departure of several staff members amid concerns about its financial position.

Simms acknowledged last week that he will not have as much spending money to spend as his rivals -- a situation he attributes partly to a recent decision not to transfer a large sum of leftover funds from the now-defunct gubernatorial campaign of Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.

Simms had been on the ticket as Duncan's running mate but moved over to the attorney general's race after Duncan dropped out last month. At the time, aides to the ticket talked about giving Simms as much as $700,000 from Duncan's account, though it was not clear that such a transfer would be allowed under campaign law.

Under normal circumstances, candidates are restricted to giving $6,000 to another campaign.

"My goal here is not to exploit any loopholes," Simms said.

Eric Rich

By Phyllis Jordan  |  August 1, 2006; 9:53 AM ET
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