Is Ehrlich's running mate being kept in the shadows?

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 27, 2010; 11:44 PM

Telling YouTube viewers that he'd found "somebody to help me turn Annapolis around," former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. welcomed Mary D. Kane to his Republican gubernatorial ticket four months ago with a peck on the cheek.

Since then, Kane has carried high hopes for boosting Ehrlich's bid for a return to the governor's mansion.

Best known in statewide circles for her two years as Ehrlich's secretary of state and for her husband's high profile in business and Republican politics, Kane has twice waged tough election campaigns of her own - and can also boast an inspiring personal biography, rising from working-class roots and more than a decade as a full-time mother to a successful career in law, politics and business.

Observers have seen Kane as helping Ehrlich with key demographic weaknesses - particularly among women, who, according to polls, heavily favor Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), and by boosting his prospects in Kane's home of Montgomery County.

Constance A. Morella, a Republican who represented the county in Congress for nine terms, said Kane can attract Montgomery's overwhelmingly Democratic voters. "She's moderate," Morella said. "That's what people want. And she's a lawyer, she's a mother; she's got great people skills."

But some observers question whether Ehrlich has done enough to introduce Kane, 48, to the electorate.

Keith Haller, an independent pollster with Bethesda-based Potomac Inc., agrees that Kane's moderate image is generally well tuned to the county and the state electorate at large but said that Kane has been "next to invisible" even by the standards of gubernatorial running mates.

Mary Deely was raised in Wilmington, Del., the daughter of working-class Irish immigrants: Ed, who worked as a pipefitter in DuPont's Chambers Works, and Ann, a seamstress in the valet shop at Wilmington's Hotel du Pont.

She attended parochial schools until leaving Wilmington to study business at Mount St. Mary's University. At the Catholic school in the Catoctin Mountains, she was active in organizing class activities and was a regular at Sunday evening Mass.

"A lot of us were raised in Democratic families growing up," said Joanne McShalley, a college friend who lives in Parkville, Md., and remains close to Kane. "That's changed a lot."

Kane's political interests developed early. The day after graduation, she began work as a receptionist in then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s Capitol Hill offices, later working in the offices of the American Trucking Association. About that time, her growing interest in politics met a new consciousness as a business-oriented conservative, sparked in part by a 1987 meeting with President Ronald Reagan. But her political ambitions were put on hold.

At college, Mary Deely had met John M. Kane, whose father owned a Baltimore-based moving company. They married not long after leaving Mount St. Mary's, settled in Potomac and had three children. Mary Kane raised them full time for the next 10 years while her husband took over the family business, turning it into the largest specialty commercial mover in the country. He also rose to prominent positions in the Washington business community and in Maryland's Republican Party, becoming chairman in 2002.

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