* On July 19, The Almanac published an article on Maryland Democratic Party Chair Terry Lierman's visit to the Potomac Community Center and Democrats' preparations for the 2006 elections. Today, Republican Party Chair John Kane offers a look at his party's plans for next year. To read the Lierman article and other election coverage, visit www.potomacalmanac.com.
John Kane knows exactly how many days are left before the 2006 general election — 403 when he gave an interview Aug. 25.
Kane, chair of the Maryland Republican Party, is counting down to the elections. Kane says his party will pick up 21 seats in the Maryland legislature and one in the U.S. Senate while retaining the governor’s mansion, which the Republicans won in 2002 for the first time in more than 30 years.
While some analysts have proclaimed a swing to the right in Maryland, where President Bush won 18 of 22 jurisdictions in 2004, Kane is reticent to use that description. But he does call the present “the best time in the state’s history to be a Republican” and says that Gov. Robert Ehrlich has been a successful leader in spite of what he calls an obstructionist Democratic agenda in Annapolis since Ehrlich’s election.
Kane, of Potomac, grew up in Chevy Chase and Silver Spring in a Catholic family with nine children. He worked in his father’s trucking business growing up — as a mover at 13 and a driver at 16, attending Good Counsel High School and Mount St. Mary’s College in Frederick County.
Kane bought his father’s business seven years ago. It now has five branches: Office Movers, Office Archives, Office Installers, Kane 3PL (third-party logistics), and a staffing company.
His wife Mary Kane, a former Montgomery County Council and District 15 House of Delegates candidate, was appointed Maryland Secretary of State Aug. 2. They have three children, ages 17, 16, and 13.
Q: What did you do coming out of college? How did you become involved in party politics?
A. I was supposed to go in the Coast Guard. I passed my OCS. And two weeks before I was assigned … my dad called and said, "I really don’t want you going in the Coast Guard. I’m afraid you won’t come back." So I went to work for him, and have been there since in different capacities.
He passed away about two years ago. His mantra was, leave the place better off from where you found it. And through his foundation — which is where the majority of what I paid for the company went into — they’re giving that money away at a pretty good clip … His whole point was to make money, enjoy doing it, and then give it away at the end.
I got involved in politics because of Ellen Saurbrey and Bob Ehrlich and Reagan really.
I think when the governor and the lieutenant governor asked me to be chair they wanted to kind of shake things up. Because the folks in Maryland in the Republican Party hadn’t had a history of winning. … I have two sayings that I kind of constantly reinforce within our leadership and that is that the price of relevancy is discipline and a good Republican is an elected Republican.
Q: What are the current objectives of the Maryland Republican Party, looking ahead to 2006?
A: What we’re looking for is to help bring some relevance and some stability to the governor’s vision and message … and I think to do that we need to help him get some more delegates and state senators elected. So our goal is to bring in seven senators, 14 delegates in targeted seats. We’re not releasing who those targeted seats are, because we really don’t want to help those people that are being targeted to raise money. But when you look at … the demographics of the districts, it’s clearly Ehrlich/Bush country.
Maryland has not become a completely Republican state. We have not become more conservative. I think we’ve become more enlightened, that we can take a $2 billion deficit and bring it to a $1 billion surplus without Draconian cuts and do it in a sensible way that fiscally is in the best interests of everybody. The liberal left agenda was to make Bob fail. Ehrlich’s agenda was to make Maryland better.
Q: You’ve talked about Democratic obstructionism. Can you give an example?
A: Certainly the income tax reduction for veterans. … We should have passed a tax relief bill for veterans and not had it shut down in committee. Because we’ve got 49,000 veterans who are paying state taxes and they can go elsewhere, other states — South Carolina and such — and not pay taxes. And some may say well let them go, who cares. But they’re part of the fabric of our community: the grandparents are the ones that hold Sunday dinner.
You will find this year and I’ll bet you nickel to a dollar that the first piece of legislation that the Democrats come out with is to put that same bill in and claim it’s theirs.
It’s not Democrats, they’re not the enemy. It’s the progressive Peter Franchot, Pierre Franchot as we call him — it’s that left-leaning crowd that we don’t think represent the majority of Maryland. They may represent Takoma Park, or some parts of Prince George’s County or whatever, but when you look at the big picture of things they don’t represent the majority of Maryland
In the past Republicans have always had a difficult time because the epicenters of Baltimore City, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County which are more liberal, tended to control the electorate. … But now as the exurbs have grown … they’re getting more clout in how they go to the ballot box and I think that’s the thing the Democrats haven’t responded to.
Q: You’ve talked about demographics in Maryland — the Democrats’ focus on the “big three” of Baltimore, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, and the Republicans’ focus in western Maryland and other more conservative areas. Can Republicans win seats in Montgomery County in 2006?
A: It’s the old saying of why do you rob banks — that’s where the money is. Clearly the number of Republican registrants are much stronger in those non-big three areas. Those are the people that we work for.
Now there are Montgomery County residents who voted for Bob Ehrlich — 112,000 of them. … We have competitive races here in Montgomery County that we’re going to take a shot at. Is Montgomery County an uphill battle? Sure it is. But ask Jean Cryor, she’s been reelected twice. … People that vote for Jean know Jean. It’s not an R or a D thing. And it’s really not an R or a D thing out in Washington County or Carroll County. It’s about what do you stand for.
The smartest thing I’ve seen [the Democrats] do was about a year and a half ago they went to a NASCAR event. Who would think of Democrats and NASCAR? … Some enterprising person thought let’s go someplace where we don’t normally go. NASCAR. Good for them. I haven’t seen anything since then or before that.
If my customer base is 2 to 1 Democrat, the last thing I want to do is go beat up on Democrats. If some small percentage of that 2 to 1 customer base doesn’t pay their bills, doesn’t do their business in the right way, and our people can’t deal with them, that’s who I’m going after.
Q: What happens in 2006? Does Gov. Ehrlich get reelected?
A: I think Bob Ehrlich gets reelected. … I think if Lt. Gov. Steele gets in the race, and that’s an if, I think we’ll have success there. … Cardin is only up by five points. To be up by only five points, a 10-term sitting congressman in a 2-to-1 Democratic registrant state is a pretty good leadoff for Steele. … He loves his job as lieutenant governor [and] he might well come back and say ‘No I’m not doing it.’ We’re all encouraging him to do it because I think its the best shot that we’re going to have in a long, long time.
Our County Executive’s race here in Montgomery County we’re having a hard time finding a candidate. We don’t have a strong candidate here as far as I’m concerned. Maybe we need to call Alan Keyes in.
Q: Your wife was recently appointed by the Governor Ehrlich as Maryland Secretary of State. What are her responsibilities?
A: A large part of her duties are ceremonial. … She has nothing to do with elections. …
Q: You were looking at running for governor in 2002 before Ehrlich got in the race, right?
A: We didn’t know if then-congressman Ehrlich was going to get in the race and we wanted to have a candidate. … Folks came to me and said would you consider doing it. I said fine, under two conditions. One, whatever money I raise, I give back, which I did, and that as soon as Gov. Ehrlich announces he’s in or gives me the indication that he’s in, I’m out. And that’s exactly what I did.
Whether they would elect a white catholic Republican from Montgomery County, who knows.
Q: Would you look at running for something else down the line?
A: I’m happy being a chairman and I have a business that has 1,200 employees, and they need my attention. I’ve learned never to say never, but I have no interest in looking at anything anytime soon. I like doing what I’m doing behind the scenes, and I think that I’ve done a pretty good job … I’ve got 403 more days to do that and then like a good strong wind, I’m going to blow out. I’m done.