July 1, 2010

Ehrlich’s choice of Mary Kane as running mate no surprise

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By Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com

Reporters were scrambling around four years ago, trying to pin down whom Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich would select for his running mate to replace Michael Steele, who was trying to move up to the U.S. Senate.

He ultimately selected Kristin Cox, then his secretary of disabilities, a blind woman who had never run for office and has since moved back to Utah.

But even then Mary Deely Kane, Ehrlich’s secretary of state and wife of state GOP chairman John Kane, was prominently mentioned as a potential choice. This time the signals were even clearer.

Kane was master of ceremonies at Ehrlich’s April announcement in Rockville, and the Montgomery County lawyer was present at a number of Ehrlich events. She’s run twice for political office in Maryland’s largest county, where Ehrlich hopes to trim Gov. Martin O’Malley’s winning margin. She lost in a 2000 special primary election for the County Council by 164 votes to former Sen. Howard Denis, a man she introduced at Ehrlich’s April announcement, and again in a 2002 in race for House of Delegates from the Potomac area where she lives.

Because her name was being bandied about then for the LG slot, I sat down with her June 7, 2006 for a long interview for the Baltimore Examiner newspaper, an interview never published because she didn’t get the nod from Ehrlich.

In 2002, “The night of the election, I was heart-broken because I wanted to be the delegate,” Kane told me as she sat in her office a half block from the State House. Ehrlich, who won over Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, “called my house three times that night to say, ‘I can’t believe you lost and … we’re going to Annapolis anyway.’ ”

Ehrlich appointed her deputy secretary of state, and he named her secretary when Karl Aumann, formed district director of Ehrlich’s congressional office, was appointed to the Worker’s Compensation Commission. She took office despite suffering a stroke just weeks before being sworn in, as reported in this 2006 Gazette profile.

As secretary of state, she oversaw a hodge-podge of government activities: Maryland’s international Sister State programs, public charities and notaries, the output of the Code of Maryland Regulations, the state Military Monuments Commission with hundreds of war memorials here and overseas, and even the state’s flag protocol, notifying agencies when the Maryland flag is to be flown half-staff for the death of a law-enforcement officer or a member of the armed forces. She successfully fought for passage of a law to tighten regulation of charities and another that allows victims of domestic violence to have all their mail sent to the secretary of state’s office for forwarding “without fear of their abusers finding their address.”

Mary Kane is the eldest of four children of two Irish immigrants who came to the United States as teenagers. She said her father “flipped a coin as to whether he was going to Australia or the United States.” He came here in 1956 and was soon drafted.

Despite her closeness politically to Ehrlich, she shares a number of things in common with O’Malley. Both are Irish Catholics who attended Catholic schools as children. O’Malley graduated from the Catholic University of America in Washington, where Kane went to law school. Both are lawyers and served as prosecutors for a while, and both have a son named Jack and a daughter named Grace. (Kane has another daughter, Elizabeth, and O’Malley has a daughter Tara and a son William.)

Both Kane and O’Malley got their first jobs working for a home-state senator. O’Malley worked as field director of Barbara Mikulski’s 1986 Senate campaign, and Kane got a job on Capitol Hill with Sen. Joe Biden from Delaware, for whom her sister had interned.

Kane had an even earlier connection with Biden. Kane’s third-grade teacher was Biden’s first wife, who later died in a car crash. At the time, Biden was running for County Council, and his wife “used to give us the bumper stickers and we would put them on stuff,” Kane recalled.

That was the extent of her political involvement until the 1990s, when her husband, who bought his office moving company from his father, worked to elect Ellen Sauerbrey as governor.

In 2002, the family moved to their current home because “my house was cut out of District 15” in a highly political redistricting, though she said “we had been looking to move.”

“Redistricting hurt everyone in Montgomery County if you were a Republican,” Kane said. She came in fifth in that race for House of Delegates, trailing behind Democrats Brian Feldman, now chair of the Montgomery County House delegation, Kathleen Dumais, and Republican Jean Cryor.

Council member Denis and Del. Cryor both lost their 2006 re-election campaigns. They were Montgomery County’s last surviving Republican elected officials.

This year, with her selection by Ehrlich, she hopes to get a Montgomery Republican elected to state office again, and to put a Republican governor in the State House, who, among other things, might redraw congressional and legislative districts to give the GOP a better chance at the polls.