Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has selected his onetime Cabinet member Mary D. Kane as a running mate in his bid to reclaim the governor's office from the Democrat who toppled him four years ago.
The Republican Ehrlich announced his lieutenant governor pick late Wednesday to his more than 27,000 Facebook fans, followed immediately by the more-traditional method of emails to others supporters and news media.
Kane, 48, a Montgomery County resident who served as Maryland secretary of state for 18 months under Ehrlich, had been widely viewed as the top contender. She has deep ties in the Washington suburbs, an area of the state where Ehrlich is looking to make gains. She is married to John Kane, a former state GOP chairman and owner of a large moving and storage company, a connection that could give the campaign access to top Republican donors.
The link to John Kane could serve Ehrlich as he pushes a theme he has sounded throughout his nearly three-month campaign: that Maryland must become friendlier to businesses. But it also could carry significant baggage: He is being sued federally for fraudulent billing on government contracts.
Ehrlich said he was "delighted that Mary has agreed to join with me on my mission to bring more jobs, lower taxes, and a brighter future to all Marylanders."
"She has a great mix of experience in government and the private sector, and knows the joys and challenges of raising a family in Maryland," the former governor said in a statement. "She will be [a] true partner in government who shares my belief that fixing Maryland's problems requires candor and real solutions, not cynicism and fear."
Kane is a first-generation American and the mother of three college-aged children. Ehrlich's campaign said she assists military veterans, National Guardsmen and Reservists searching for employment upon returning from overseas as director of special projects for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Kane said she was "honored to join Bob Ehrlich's campaign to bring new ideas and proven leadership to state government.
In a statement, Kane said her upbringing as the daughter of Irish immigrants instilled in her "a profound appreciation for what is possible in Maryland: unlimited economic opportunity, safe neighborhoods, and unparalleled quality of life.
"But achieving these goals requires leadership," she said. "If I have the honor of serving as Lt. Governor, I will work tirelessly to ensure those blessings are available to every Maryland family."
Kane has not held elected office. She narrowly lost a primary for Montgomery County Council in 2000 to Howard Denis, who was elected the lone Republican on that panel. Two years later, she ran for the Maryland House of Delegates but lost in the general election.
Richard Vatz, a professor of rhetoric at Towson University and longtime Ehrlich supporter, described Kane as "serious, articulate and attractive" and an "exquisite choice."
Vatz said Ehrlich needed to pick either a woman or an African-American to bring balance to the Republican ticket. Her Montgomery roots, he said, should help Ehrlich in the county with the second highest number of registered Republicans in the state.
The campaign manager for Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley welcomed Kane to the contest.
"She is certainly no stranger to Maryland politics and is very familiar with Bob Ehrlich's political ideology, having served on his political team during the one Ehrlich term," campaign manager Tom Russell said in a statement.
"This election will ultimately be about which candidate puts the interests of Maryland's working families ahead of the special interests, and who is on the side of working families; it will be about which candidate has a vision to move Maryland forward and which candidate wants to take Maryland back," Russell said. "Ms. Kane certainly has an interesting background working for the family business and a unique perspective on Bob Ehrlich's background."
The Maryland Democratic Party had its ammunition ready, releasing a series of questions for Kane, most centering on her husband's company and its work with the state.
Democrats said Kane should make clear her stance on the Purple Line light rail project planned for Montgomery County. Earlier this decade, she opposed the route, and Ehrlich has said the state cannot afford it.
As secretary of state, Kane oversaw the state's international sister cities program, was responsible for overseeing and registering charitable organizations and recorded executive orders, among other duties.
Since Ehrlich's defeat in 2006, she has been working for the Chamber of Commerce. She wrote briefly for an online commerce newsletter.
In what appeared to be a series of auditions for the role of running mate this year, Kane had popped up at numerous events alongside Ehrlich. She moderated a small-business roundtable in Rockville and stood with Ehrlich during a VIP reception at the annual state Republican fundraiser.