Md. governor candidate Ehrlich taps ex-secretary of state Kane as running mate

Mary Kane, shown in 2000.
Mary Kane, shown in 2000. (Bill O'Leary - The Washington Post)
By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 1, 2010

Former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) reached into vote-rich Montgomery County on Wednesday night, tapping Mary D. Kane, a former Maryland secretary of state from Potomac, as his running mate for this year's rematch against Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Ehrlich's choice of a lieutenant governor candidate, announced in a 10 p.m. posting on Facebook, appeared aimed at improving the Republican's prospects in the state's largest jurisdiction and among women. Polls show Ehrlich trails the Democratic incumbent among female voters.

Ehrlich plans to introduce Kane, 48, Thursday morning in Silver Spring, and the newly minted ticket will formally file for office Friday, aides said.

In a statement Wednesday night, Ehrlich, whose campaign has focused largely on jobs and the economy, promoted Kane's business background. He said she has "a great mix of experience in government and the private sector." Kane, well known in Maryland political circles, has worked for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce since January 2008 as director of special projects.

The choice carries at least one potentially significant risk: An office moving company owned by Kane's husband, John, has been sued by the federal government for allegedly paying its workers less than required by federal contracts and for submitting "false and fraudulent documents" indicating it was in compliance over several years.

Mary Kane, a lawyer, was a member of the board of directors of the Kane Co. from 1997 to 2003, according to a state-issued biography, when much of the alleged misconduct is said to have taken place. John Kane, a former chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, has denied that any fraud took place and has called the allegations overblown. He has said in news reports that the allegations originated through the complaints of a disgruntled former employee. The lawsuit is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Mary Kane's name has circulated as a possible Ehrlich running mate for weeks, though Ehrlich kept his choice a closely guarded secret until it was announced on the social networking site.

In a brief interview Tuesday night, Ehrlich said that "personal compatibility and philosophical compatibility" were the dominant factors in his selection. Ehrlich said gender and geography were "secondary" issues.

Some Republican insiders suggested, however, that both factors played a strong role in the selection. Jeanne Allen, a national charter schools advocate who also lives in Montgomery County, was among other candidates Ehrlich closely considered, sources familiar with the process said.

A Washington Post poll in May found O'Malley led Ehrlich among registered voters by 49 percent to 41 percent -- an eight percentage point gap. Among female voters statewide, the gap was 17 points. Among Montgomery voters, it was 30 points.

Ehrlich has acknowledged he will have to run stronger than he did in 2006 in the Washington region -- and in Montgomery in particular -- to beat O'Malley.

Although it tilts Democratic, Montgomery has more registered Republicans -- about 120,000 -- than any Maryland jurisdiction except Baltimore County. Montgomery is also home to nearly 110,000 registered independents -- nearly a quarter of all those in Maryland.

Kane ran twice for public office herself, both times unsuccessfully: In 2000, she sought a seat on the Montgomery County Council. In 2002, she fell short in a bid for the state House of Delegates.

Kane was named deputy secretary of state in March 2003, shortly after Ehrlich was sworn in as Maryland's first Republican governor in a generation. She ascended to secretary of state in August 2005, a post she held until Ehrlich left office in January 2007.

A Delaware native, Kane previously worked as an aide to then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and in the legislative office of the American Trucking Association.

In two previous running mate picks, Ehrlich showed a flair for the bold.

In 2002, he tapped Michael S. Steele, who became the state's first African American lieutenant governor and is now chairman of the Republican National Committee. In his losing effort in 2006, Ehrlich picked Kristen Cox, who is legally blind. She was secretary of his Department of Disabilities.

Ehrlich said he gave serious consideration this year to about 10 to 12 possible candidates.

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