Long after most of Maryland's delegation to the Democratic National Convention arrived here, one name tag remained on a table at the party's headquarters in the Seaport Hotel.
"Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Delegate," it read.
Across the street, Maryland's delegates were at a reception welcoming them to Boston. But Townsend had yet to check in, and but for the name tag on the table, few Democrats said they would have known she was coming.
"No one much discusses her," said Jerry Garson of Potomac, describing the former lieutenant governor whose stinging electoral loss two years ago cost Democrats the governor's mansion for the first time in a generation. "She sort of hasn't had a major role in anything lately. She just kind of fell off the rocker."
Townsend and her erstwhile political partner, former governor Parris N. Glendening, chose the convention to reemerge from political obscurity and reunite with party leaders, many of whom blamed the pair for the disastrous 2002 election results.
Glendening spoke briefly to the delegation at a Monday morning breakfast, remarks greeted with polite applause but not the standing ovation accorded some speakers.
The former governor, with son Raymond in tow, also appeared at Sunday's reception and a Monday luncheon -- chatting amiably about Democratic politics and about his new enterprises, which include working with a Smart Growth group and consulting on a possible development project in Hyattsville.
"It's exciting; I'm enjoying it," he said of his retirement from politics.
His son, though, said he can tell that his father misses his years in elected office.
"He misses governing," said Raymond Glendening, 24. "He misses putting policy into action. But I have not seen him this happy in a while. He does not miss the limelight. He does not miss not seeing his name in the paper every day."
When Townsend arrived at Monday's breakfast, Glendening rushed over to greet her. So did other Democrats, many of whom she had barely seen since her campaign for governor ended.
"I'm glad to see you here," Sen. Gloria G. Lawlah (D-Prince George's) told the former lieutenant governor.
"It's fun to be here," Townsend replied.
"It brings us all back together again," Lawlah agreed, drifting away.
Four years ago, Townsend was the toast of the Democratic convention, touted as a future vice presidential candidate and sought after to speak not only at the podium but before delegations from other states.
This year she is something of a ghost, showing up at just one Maryland event thus far. Back home, too, party members say she seldom appears at fundraisers or other party functions.
"I'm certain there is some bitterness," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (Calvert), who added that Glendening and Townsend should be credited for their progressive record in office. "She worked very hard. She could have and should have done better at the polls. . . . I think it is probably some mutual dissatisfaction."
Still, many Democrats are hesitant to criticize either Glendening or Townsend.
"I am focused on the convention and the election," said Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, who considered challenging Townsend two years ago for the Democratic nomination. "Both of them served us for eight years, and they are certainly deserve our respect."
Both Glendening and Townsend are so-called super delegates, a title bestowed on party leaders who become delegates without being elected in the primary. Townsend, however, was not initially invited, Democratic officials acknowledge, and became a delegate only after she called and asked if she could come.
Besides feelings among many Democrats that she ran a poor campaign against Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., party officials say she has done little to help the party retire the $400,000 debt it incurred during the 2002 election.
"Normally, what happens most times for Democrats, the nominee has gone on to win, and usually paying it off is an easy proposition through fundraising," said Isiah Leggett, chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party. "But when you lose, everyone disappears."
After losing the election, Townsend briefly worked for an organization that sought to discourage school bullying. She now teaches public policy at Georgetown University and said she is writing a book about religion and politics.
In an interview, Townsend said she has also been traveling the country raising money for charitable organizations and campaigning for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry, which she said she will continue to do.
And although her appeal in Maryland has waned, Townsend maintains a nationwide network of Democratic admirers.
When Maryland delegates arrived at the John F. Kennedy Center Library for a special luncheon, one visitor immediately inquired about Townsend. "Is Kathleen going to be here?" asked Christina Anderson, a Texas Democrat and past Townsend campaign contributor.
Townsend was several miles away attending a dedication ceremony for a park named after her grandmother, Rose Kennedy.