Carey returns to statewide fray

POLITICAL GAME

May 12, 1993|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

Ellie Carey found you can go home again. And now she wants to do it, politically.

Defeated in her creditable bid for attorney general of Maryland in 1986, she will make another run next year.

Well before 1992, the Year of the Woman in American politics, Ms. Carey ran third in the strong three-person Democratic primary. Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. was the clear winner over Russell T. "Tim" Baker Jr. and Ms. Carey, who trailed Mr. Baker by less than a thousand votes.

Now she's back in the fray. Like others maneuvering for statewide offices, she's already had several fund-raisers.

One took place during a late-winter snowstorm. People came in Land Rovers to an event at the Baltimore home of former Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs, for whom she had been second-in-command in the attorney general's office.

Former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti will be honorary co-host of a June fund-raiser. The celebrity backing is all too necessary: she raised $600,000 in 1986 and calculates $1 million will be needed next year.

Running again was not something she decided to do immediately. The hard work of campaigning and the pain of defeat takes time to absorb.

"You don't think of putting yourself on the block again so quickly," she says.

For a time after the primary, she worked as a legal affairs reporter on Baltimore television. In 1988, she established Multi-Media Educational Technologies Inc., a nonprofit group set to develop multi-media teaching concepts for science in high schools.

Then she went back to her hometown, Providence, R.I., to help unravel a financial scandal reminiscent of the savings and loan debacle in Maryland. Depositors lost access to their accounts in Rhode Island credit unions, which closed abruptly after a state-sponsored insurance fund became insolvent.

In April 1991, she became an assistant to Alan Baron, a Washington-based banking law expert hired by the state of Rhode Island to head an investigation and cleanup operation. Because so many people had money in credit unions, Ms. Carey says, most Rhode Islanders were directly affected or knew someone who was. Her work lasted 18 months.

"We were trying," she says, "to apportion responsibility for the failure to have in place the right regulatory mechanisms." The response to such calamities, she observes, has sometimes included over-correction.

"What you have to do is strike a balance so that people's money is protected but so that businesses still have access to money."

Since her return to Maryland, she has practiced corporate law in an office shared with two other Baltimore lawyers in the Fidelity Building. She has continued to do some work with Mr. Baron in Washington as well.

The 51-year-old Ms. Carey said the "extraordinary experience" in Rhode Island impressed her again with the importance of education as a component of public service -- making clear the rights and responsibilities of citizens. It was during that process that she decided to run again.

Not that any of this business of governing or politicking is new to her. Her late father was a judge, a lawyer and a dabbling politician in Providence. She remembers the election year sprouting of candidate lawn signs in her front yard.

While home in Rhode Island, Ms. Carey saw a lot more of her mother -- but almost never for dinner.

"She finally got to see what her daughter does for a living. What she couldn't understand was why I had to work 14-hour days almost every day."

Now Ms. Carey is poised for the chance to put in another bout of even longer days.

Big bucks, but for what?

Though still holding herself out as a potential candidate for governor, Helen Delich Bentley, the 2nd District Republican congresswoman, continues to raise money for a congressional race. She held a $250-per-ticket fund-raiser last night at the Towson Sheraton.

The proceeds of this and other events are earmarked for a federal race, her re-election. Under state law, only $4,000 of that money could be transferred for use in a state campaign, $H including her own.

Nevertheless, sources say, the redoubtable Mrs. Bentley is conducting a poll to further assess her chances as a gubernatorial candidate.

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