Steele Likely to Form Exploratory Committee

By Matthew Mosk and John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, May 27, 2005

Maryland Republican Party Chairman John Kane said last night that he expects Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R) will soon announce the launch of a committee to explore a 2006 U.S. Senate bid.

"I think that's what he will do," Kane said in an interview, adding, "He represents the best hope of the Republican Party to win that seat."

Asked later if he had formed a committee, Steele said: "You can quote me: 'I have not formed anything. I have not made any decision.' "

An exploratory committee would mark the first formal step in a bid to replace the retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D).

Steele -- who, if elected, would be Maryland's first black senator -- has said he is giving the Senate contest serious consideration. Running for the seat would require Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) to get a new running mate for a reelection bid next year.

Kane said he expects Steele to set up an exploratory committee that includes Republicans and Democrats to assess whether he should move forward with a bid.

"He will analyze this, answer the question, 'Does he want to do this?' " Kane said. "It's his call, but I'm very excited about the prospect of his campaign."

Other Republicans who worked on the Ehrlich-Steele campaign in 2002 said yesterday that they believe a Steele announcement on an exploratory committee is imminent.

The Senate race has attracted two Democrats, Kweisi Mfume, a former U.S. representative and a former NAACP leader, and Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin. Both are from Baltimore. A third Democrat, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County, is exploring a bid.

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