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Votes

Republican Pioneer, Matron Louise Gore Dies at 80

Gore was her party’s first female nominee for governor in Maryland.

The Governor and Lieutenant Governor, a Maryland State Police Color Guard, and more than 100 friends and family members gathered to remember to Louise Gore, a matron of Maryland Republican politics, at Potomac United Methodist Church Oct. 12.

Gore died of cancer Oct. 6 at a Georgetown hospice. She was 80.

Gore served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1963-1967. She was the first Republican woman elected to the Maryland Senate, in 1966, and served there for three years, before being appointed by President Richard Nixon as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris.

In 1974, Gore became her party’s first female gubernatorial nominee in Maryland. She lost to her friend, Democrat Marvin Mandel, and lost the Republican primary to J. Glenn Beall four years later.

She introduced Richard Nixon to then Maryland Gov. Spiro Agnew, his later running mate, in 1966.

Born in Leesburg, Va., in 1925, Gore grew up on her family’s River Road estate, Marwood. She attended Holton-Arms school and Georgetown University, and her family has a long association with the Falls Road church where she was memorialized last week.

Gore was a pioneer, but was remembered Wednesday more as principled leader, a mentor and a staunch friend.

“She was adamant that no litany of firsts and accomplishments be heaped on a simple service,” said Gore’s niece Deborah Gore Dean Pawlik in a eulogy. “She asked me to keep it simple and tell it to you all that she lived for her friends.”

Pawlik described a woman with great dignity and great respect for all public servants, Republican or Democratic.

She recalled that Gore would happily stand at the gates of steel mills at 4:30 a.m. to shake the hands of workers as they filed in. She revered them as Marylanders and as people. She liked the idea of shaking hands with people who would probably vote against her.

“Louise did not win every fight and every contest. … It’s how she conducted herself, not the record of her success, that made her so different. Louise never did an unethical thing for political gain, ever,” Pawlik said. “She didn’t need a pollster to tell her what she believed in or how to sell it to people. She had too much respect for people.”

Gore was a mentor to many current Republican politicians in Maryland — the likes of former Sen. Jean Roesser and County Councilmember Howard Denis. She frequently hosted fund-raisers and informal parties for young candidates.

“My first job in politics you might say was parking cars at her home, at Marwood,” Denis said. He later worked as Republican staffer in the House of Delegates during Gore’s tenure and became her chief of staff in the Senate.

“She was a friend. She understood what friendship is,” Denis said. “She was one of the most significant people in my life, for sure.”

Denis recalled a deeply personable woman who also had the no-nonsense mentality of an effective legislator.

Gore once introduced a bill concerning testing infants for the disorder Phenylketonuria—widely referred to just by the initials PKU.

In a Senate hearing on the bill, then Budget Committee Chairman Roy Staten tried to tip Gore up with the jargon, Denis recalled.

“Trying to catch Louise off guard, [he] said, ‘Will the sponsor of the bill please tell us what PKU means and give us some medical history of what this is all about?’” Denis said. “So she arose and she said one word. It was the shortest, most effective speech I’ve ever heard in my life. She said, “Phenylketonuria” and sat down. And then Roy Staten said, ‘Let’s vote.’”

The bill passed unanimously.

“That’s Louise. … She got right to the heart of it and said like it or not, vote for it or not, but you asked me how to pronounce it and I’m pronouncing it,” Denis said.

Gov. Robert Ehrlich in an interview called Gore “a historic figure in Maryland politics.”

“She is someone who won when people thought she could not win. She was a fierce competitor, but classy and beloved by many people around the state,” Ehrlich said.

Ehrlich said that women, not men, have been the traditional backbone of the Republican Party in Maryland.

In that sense, Gore was as much a pioneer because she came from “a generation that was Republican when it was not cool at all to be Republican in the state of Maryland, particularly in the [Washington] suburbs,” as because she was a woman, he said.

Gore was second-cousin to former U.S. Sen. Al Gore Sr. (D-Tenn.), father of Vice President Al Gore.

Denis said he admired the mutual respect between the Tennessee Democrats and Maryland Republicans in the Gore family, a respect that extended well beyond the family for Louise Gore.

“She and [gubernatorial opponent] Marvin Mandel were friends before the election, during the election, and after the election,” Denis said. “I think that speaks so highly of her character, that she put relationships first.”

“Men loved her, but not as much as she adored them,” Pawlik said, but Gore never married.

Pawlik’s mother Mary Gore Dean died last month.

During Dean’s decline from Alzheimer’s disease, Gore stepped in as grandmother to Pawlik’s daughter Jamie, Pawlik said.

Her humility, grit, and dignity in her own later years were typical of the way she had conducted herself throughout her life.

“She was of stout heart and clear mind and she had the determination of George Washington at Valley Forge,” she said. “I hope that Louise is remembered as I see her: a symbol of what politics can be in this country.”