Mild-mannered `woman of Steele'

Lieutenant governor's reserved wife emerges on the campaign trail


More noteworthy than the "Women of Steele" coalition launched yesterday by Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele's U.S. Senate campaign was the appearance by his side of the shy woman who introduced the candidate to his audience.

Reading from prepared remarks to a room of 40 or so admirers in Annapolis, Andrea Steele, the lieutenant governor's wife, explained that she was initially none too thrilled at the prospect of her husband's Senate bid.

"When Michael first announced that he was going to run, I have to admit I had some reservations," she said, prompting laughter from her husband and knowing supporters. "But Michael has proved during his years as lieutenant governor that he is a confident leader, that he can surmount obstacles, that he can take the heat and that he can balance family life and active and committed public service."

Life as the candidate's spouse isn't an easy one, and Andrea Steele, 46, has - throughout her husband's public career - kept a very low profile. But as the lieutenant governor, a Republican, makes a bid to capture a Senate seat occupied for three decades by a Democrat, his wife appears to be making a political debut of sorts.

Asked whether she'd be hitting the campaign trail, she said she hadn't decided. "I've spoken occasionally, and I think I'll speak occasionally," she said.

Andrea Steele, who spent the moments before the announcement encouraging family members to join her for an eight-mile run, used her less-than-two-minute introduction to say that her husband will help "end all the noise in politics and focus on effective results." She said he is committed to economic progress and providing opportunities for all Marylanders.

"Women probably know better than anyone what it is like to have dreams, to hope and to wish for the best for our children and for our families," she said. "But we also know we have to work hard and commit to getting the job done to actually make a difference in the world."

Opting for slacks and a suede jacket, Steele didn't don the light-blue T-shirt boasting "Women of Steele" on the front and the campaign's Web address on the back. Organizers said the coalition has 500 members and will play a role in helping to get Steele elected.

A mother of two boys, Steele was joined by her mother, mother-in-law and sister-in-law. The candidate acknowledged the women in his life with kisses on the cheeks.

"I want to especially thank my wife, Andrea, who is the Rock of Gibraltar in our family, who I know does not particularly enjoy the public stage," Steele said. "But she has been phenomenally important in getting me to this point. ... I just wanted to say once again publicly how much I love you and appreciate you and thank you."

A chorus of "aws" filled the Church Circle tavern.

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