Louise Gore, 80, trailblazer for GOP women in Maryland

October 07, 2005|By JILL ROSEN | JILL ROSEN,SUN REPORTER

Louise Gore, a Republican stalwart who was the first woman to run for statewide office in Maryland, died of cancer yesterday at a hospice in Washington. She was 80.

The GOP nominee for governor in 1974, Miss Gore waged an unsuccessful campaign against Marvin Mandel.

She had forged a political career in the state earlier, representing Montgomery County in the House of Delegates from 1963 to 1967, then serving a term in the state Senate.

In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon appointed Miss Gore U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris.

She was a GOP national committeewoman for Maryland and ran again for governor in 1978 but didn't get past the primary.

"She was a grand lady of politics," said Miss Gore's niece, Deborah Gore Dean of Washington. "Her loyalties were always to one side, but her friends were on both sides."

Former Tennessee Sen. Albert Gore Sr., former Vice President Al Gore's father, was her second cousin.

"When I was a child, I was taught that everyone had to be in politics," Miss Gore told The Sun during her first run for governor. "I thought it was a requirement of citizenship."

Yesterday, her political allies and opponents spoke of her dedication to the Republican Party and her unwavering gentility that allowed her to win fast friends of all political stripes.

"I will tell you this," Mr. Mandel said. "In spite of the fact that we ran for governor, we remained friends through the campaign and after."

In addition to her own political tenure, she worked hard to give other Republicans a leg up in the Democratic stronghold of Maryland, friends said.

"Louise Gore was a classy woman and a dedicated public servant," Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said in a statement. "She was a trailblazer for women who sought to hold statewide elected office."

Former Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, who worked on Miss Gore's first gubernatorial campaign, said her Republican colleague and friend didn't have it easy as a pioneering woman in politics.

"In those days, honey, men didn't like you getting into their fray," Mrs. Bentley said. "But her manners, her temper and her pizazz allowed her to cut through all that. She worked hard and she did well."

"It was never beyond her vision that women were absolutely equal to men," Miss Gore's niece said. "She knew female voters and the vote of women in the work force were going to be a huge voting bloc."

Though polite, Miss Gore fought a fierce race for governor. Mr. Mandel recalled a vigorous opponent who wouldn't take no for an answer in her persistent requests for a debate.

He demurred, he said, partly because he didn't want to take a friend - let alone a woman - to the mat and partly because he suspected she wasn't up to speed on the budget numbers.

But when Miss Gore challenged him in front of the news media, he said, "Let's do it right now."

"It went just as I thought," said Mr. Mandel, who ended up overwhelming Miss Gore at the polls.

Though she had a reputation as a gracious hostess, Ms. Dean said her aunt cringed at that term.

Raised in Montgomery County, at Marwood, the family's 300-acre estate on the Potomac, Miss Gore regularly opened the home for political soirees.

In 1974 she told The Sun, "I do have something of a reputation for giving parties, but they are parties with a purpose. I'm not so much socially minded as purpose-minded."

Miss Gore was also known for running the swank Jockey Club in Washington, a restaurant that at times rivaled the Capitol as a spot for deal-making by the powerful.

Ms. Dean said the restaurant's popularity skyrocketed after Jacqueline Kennedy dined there with Marlon Brando.

Despite an upper-crust veneer, Ms. Dean said, her aunt had a soft spot for Baltimore, particularly its edibles. While running for governor, she took an apartment at the Belvedere Hotel.

Campaigning in the staunchly Democratic city, Ms. Dean said, her aunt, who insisted that "you never give away a vote," would stand outside steel plants and factories, shaking hands for hours.

"She would say, `At least they'll know who they're voting against,'" Ms. Dean said.

Miss Gore is also survived by a brother, James Gore of Vienna, Va.; and several nieces and nephews.

A funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Potomac United Methodist Church in Potomac.

jill.rosen@baltsun.com

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