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Gansler Gets Perez Treatment

Less than two weeks before election day, and after nearly 140,000 absentee ballots have been sent out, a judge is pondering whether the Democrats' attorney general candidate can remain on the ballot.

Doug Gansler, who holds substantial leads in polls and fundraising, is awaiting a judge's ruling on whether he's got the 10 years experience in Maryland required for the statewide post.

You'll remember that the same constitutional provision tripped up Montgomery County Council member Tom Perez in the Democratic primary: the state Court of Appeals bounced him out of the election three weeks before ballots were cast.

Perez joined the Maryland State Bar just five years ago, while Gansler has been a member for 17 years. Gansler and many legal experts believe bar membership is the gold standard, but the state Court of Appeals didn't release an opinion in the Perez case so it hard to read their minds.

And despite his long bar membership, Gansler admitted in testimony yesterday that he had barely set foot in a Maryland court house before being elected Montgomery County prosecutor eight years ago.

"I had not been in a Maryland courtroom prior to those 8 years, which is a good thing, because I would have been a defendant," Gansler said in a court hearing yesterday.

Gansler initially dismissed the suit a political maneuver by his Republican rival, Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle. The Bowie bartender who filed the lawsuit is being represented by Jason Shoemaker, who is Rolle's campaign manager.

Nikos Liddy, the Bowie man who filed the suit Oct. 20, testified that he is a voter who became concerned about "the discrepancy" in Gansler's eligibility after doing research on the web, which he turned to because of distrust of the media. "Whenever you watch TV, you have somebody holding a puppy," Liddy testified.

Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Ronald A. Silkworth, the same judge who threw out Maryalnd't early voting law, acknowledged the potlicial implications of the Gansler case.

"What are we, two weeks before the election . . .?" Silkworth asked. "How in the world would it be anything but chaotic to voters?"

By Phyllis Jordan  |  October 26, 2006; 6:31 AM ET
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