Delegate Kathleen Dumais

Democrat, Maryland House of Delegates District 15

Kathleen Dumais: A Homegrown Politician

Washington Business Journal, by Tim Mazzucca, January 23, 2004

You can’t tell Kathleen Dumais is nervous. She insists she is, but it’s not showing.

On paper, Dumais is a family attorney and a delegate in the Maryland House of Delegates. But in person, she’s smiling, making eye contact and telling stories that provide insight to who she is.

She’s a person people look to for help, comfort and leadership. Family, friends, law partners, clients, Montgomery County residents all have relied on Dumais for those things.

“She’s really one of the sincerest people that I know,” says Trish Weaver, a colleague of Dumais’ at Bethesda law firm Paley Rothman. “She is passionate and aggressive. She brings compassion and a real element of patience and understanding in working with clients.”

As the oldest of eight children, Dumais often played mediator, which served as good training for her career as a family lawyer, specializing in child custody cases.

But in 2002, her passion to help people led her to run for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates as a representative for District 15, Montgomery County.

“It was not in any way unexpected,” says Kathleen’s brother Rich, who is 18 months younger. “I assumed for a very long time that she would get involved in politics somehow.”

State politics was a natural choice for Dumais, who has spent nearly all of her life in Maryland. She grew up in Prince George’s County. She went to law school in Baltimore. She lives in Rockville. She works in Bethesda. She spends three months of the year in Annapolis. She often visits her mother on weekends in Ocean Pines, five miles outside Ocean City.

Dumais was infected with the state government bug when she served as a page in the House of Delegates as a senior in high school.

“I’d do anything — from getting people coffee, but also go to the bill drafting room, pick up bills and run them back to the floor,” Dumais says. “Sure, I was a gofer, but it was fun.”

Her campaign in 2002 was bouyed by the fact that she was a lawyer. There was an open judgeship in Montgomery County, which prompted many residents to back Dumais because they wanted someone with knowledge of the law to help oversee judicial appointments.

Although she had the law going for her, she also needed help to run a campaign — something she had never done on this level. She would turn to Donna Van Scoy, a Rockville family law attorney and good friend. The two joked for years about how Dumais should run and Van Scoy could act as campaign manager, which effectively would fulfill their college aspirations.

Dumais recruited family and friends — both large groups — to knock on 6,000 doors in Montgomery County to introduce Dumais and tell her story.

Parents’ influence

Doctors detected colon cancer in Dumais’ mother in December 2001.

The two vacation together annually. Last year, they went to Vail, Colo., but when they got off the plane, Dumais’ mother felt her left hand go numb. Then it got worse.

The doctor told them Dumais’ mother, Helen, had a minor stroke.

However, the Dumaises weren’t going to let it ruin their vacation together. The two promptly rented a wheelchair from the hotel, and celebrated Oktoberfest by eating bratwursts and sauerkraut in town.

Resolve and fortitude is a characteristic Dumais shares with her mother.

But Dumais doesn’t talk about her mother without mentioning her father, a former Marine who was with Montgomery County public schools as a teacher and principal for 30 years.

“His bark was a lot worse than his bite,” Dumais says, “but we didn’t figure this out until much later.”

She caught a glimpse of her father’s compassion when she was 15, after getting in an argument with her mother. Dumais left the house and got in her father’s car. Her Marine father treated her more like an adult than a child: “What was that all about?” he asked in an understanding tone.

Dumais recreates her father’s tone in a way that makes it evident from whom she inherited the same trait.

Her father, Dick, died in 1997, little more than three months after celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary. These stories about her parents are some of her favorites — and that’s something she doesn’t need to verbalize.

Forging ahead

As Dumais enters her second session as a delegate — the Maryland State Bar Association named her the rookie of the year during her first session in 2003 — she hopes things will move a little faster than last year.

During the first week, things don’t look so bright.

“Things are very partisan this year,” she says from Annapolis. “I hope we can get things moving.”

Despite the frustration in her voice, she still enjoys politics. It was a good career move for a lawyer who didn’t aspire to be a judge, but was looking to do a little more.

“She gets more done than two people could,” says her brother Rich. “When does she sit down and rejuice? I don’t know. It’s a real credit to her constitution and her drive to help people.”

Professionally, she’s already looking ahead because she has her mind set on running again in 2006 — and again employing her good friend, Van Scoy, as her campaign manager.

“This isn’t an official announcement though,” she says.

Dumais is all out of stories after an almost three-hour interview. And despite her long list of things to do before heading down to Annapolis, she doesn’t seemed rushed.

“Did you get everything you need?” she asks, while trying to think of more anecdotes. “I hope you weren’t too bored.”

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