Aide to Arundel executive resigns to run for Congress

O'Keeffe, who seeks 3rd District seat, could face Owens in primary



Kevin O'Keeffe, a senior aide to Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens, resigned last week and said he is considering a run for the 3rd Congressional District seat - an office that Owens might pursue.

He "has resigned to run for the congressional seat" next year, Owens said yesterday of O'Keeffe, one of her closest political advisers. "I've always told Kevin that he couldn't wait for me," Owens said. "He felt like he had to go through with this."

Owens is barred by term limits from running for a third term as county executive next year. O'Keeffe, 41, said he had been waiting for Owens to declare her political intentions. He resigned Thursday, a decision that Owens said surprised her only by its timing.

"I've been thinking about this for five months," O'Keeffe said yesterday in reference to the congressional seat. "The field is growing. I need to start working."

O'Keeffe has worked for the past six years as Owens' legislative lobbyist. The Democrat previously worked in similar capacities for then-Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and the Baltimore public schools system.

A Baltimore native, O'Keeffe wrote a book about city politics in 1985 while an undergraduate at Georgetown University. After graduating, he earned his law degree at the Catholic school in Washington.

In 1991, O'Keeffe finished seventh out of 16 candidates in a primary for one of three 3rd District seats on the Baltimore City Council. Another Democrat, Martin O'Malley, prevailed in the district that year for his first city election.

The 3rd District seat has generated much interest since Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Democrat, announced this year that he will seek the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes. The Democratic-leaning district covers parts of Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties and Baltimore City, as well as a sliver of Howard County.

The field of Democratic candidates for the congressional seat includes veteran state Sen. Paula C. Hollinger of Baltimore County; former Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Peter L. Beilenson; and Anne Arundel County Councilman Bill D. Burlison, a former Missouri congressman. Del. Neil F. Quinter of Howard County has also said he plans to run, but he has not formally announced his candidacy.

Owens said she is keeping her political options open, although she has acknowledged that the 3rd District seat would be a good fit for her.

O'Keeffe is the second senior aide of Owens to depart in recent months. Her chief spokeswoman, Jody Couser, stepped down in July to become press secretary for Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan's expected bid for governor.

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