Republican Kane ends his run for governor

Ehrlich's qualifications, fund-raising ability led to decision, he says

September 19, 2001|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

John M. Kane, the Montgomery County businessman who said in June that he was willing to run for governor as a Republican if Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. does not, ended his shadow campaign yesterday.

Kane, 40, said he believes Ehrlich will run despite polls showing the 2nd District congressman far behind Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the Democratic front-runner.

"I said from the beginning that Congressman Bob Ehrlich is the strongest candidate the Republican Party can offer Maryland's voters for the governor's job," he said. "His continued interest in running for governor is encouraging, and I believe that at this late date he is the only candidate who can raise the needed funds to defeat the Democratic nominee."

Ehrlich, 43, has been taking his time deciding whether to make the uphill run or to seek re-election to Congress. He is scheduled to meet with his top financial backers Friday - a meeting that was postponed last week because of the terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon.

Ehrlich has had more time to ponder his next move, but impatience has been growing in GOP circles over his indecision. Republicans had expected a decision about July 4, then August, then Labor Day. By the time of the terrorist attacks, he had pushed the deadline to about Sept. 21.

"This is the most confusing political decision-making I've seen since Mario Cuomo," said one GOP activist, referring to the former New York governor's hemming and hawing about the 1992 presidential race.

But Paul Schurick, Ehrlich's top political aide, said he does not expect a decision this week because of congressional business in the wake of the disasters.

"The obligations Bob has in Congress have invariably taken precedence over any political discussion," Schurick said.

Kane - chief executive officer and owner of Kane Co., an office moving company based in Elkridge - had appeared eager to be the GOP standard-bearer if Ehrlich didn't run. He had set up a campaign office, hired staff and said he was spending $5,000 to $6,000 a week on political activities.

But from the beginning, Kane signaled that he had little stomach for a contested GOP primary. Soon after he announced his interest, Prince George's County Councilwoman Audrey E. Scott said she would be a candidate if Ehrlich passes on the race. Scott expressed no misgivings about a contested primary.

Kane said Scott's unwillingness to give him a clear field played some part in his decision to abandon the campaign.

Scott, 65, said yesterday that unless Ehrlich gets in, she's in the race to stay. "I'm ready to go. I've got a great campaign organization. We've gotten tremendous support and encouragement," she said.

Some GOP activists had been optimistic that Kane, as an attractive newcomer with strong business ties and a healthy personal fortune, could raise enough money to at least throw a scare into the Democratic candidate.

Kane said his decision to drop out is final, no matter what Ehrlich decides.

Scott said she thinks Ehrlich should take all the time he needs. "I've got the patience of Job," she said.

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