A new and surprising name has begun circulating as the next US Ambassador to Ireland.
Mary Lang Sollinger (67), a Catholic German American who was a prodigious fundraiser for Barack Obama and one of his earliest supporters in Wisconsin, is said to be the latest front-runner for ambassador.
She is currently the Finance Director of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.
Her name has begun circulating among State Department sources and leading Irish Americans in Washington for the long delayed position of ambassador, which has been vacant since December 2012, when Dan Rooney departed.
Reached by phone at her Madison, WI home Sollinger, who is married to top transplant surgeon Hans Sollinger, would neither confirm nor deny she was a candidate.
She did state she was Catholic and had made several trips to Ireland. She added that her German-born husband Hans whom she met when he came to America to practice medicine has ties to one of the universities there. He is head of the transplant division at the University of Wisconsin. They have a daughter Niki who now works as a management consultant in the D.C. area.
A close friend has property in Ireland she said and they had been frequent visitors and loved it there.
She stated she was interested in Northern Irish issues since she heard Bernadette Devlin speak in Hyde Park in London in the 1970s.
She is said to be close to Penny Pritzker, one of Obama’s closest confidantes and a Chicago-based early backer, and also to Valerie Jarrett, often considered Obama’s closest aide in the White House who has attended a fundraiser at her home.
Her ties to Obama go back a long way. In 2007 she invited the then rank outsider Senator Obama to a party in Madison and committed to him saying, “He brought out the better angels in us.”
By February of the first election year she had raised $100,000 and had become a member of his national finance committee. She has continued to be a powerful fundraiser for him.
A well-known philanthropist she was named one of the People of the Year by Madison magazine in 2011.
Obama remained in close touch with the Sollingers to the extent that he hung out with them every time he came to Milwaukee and once had Hans translate an article from the magazine Der Spiegel for him.
The nomination of a new ambassador has been a major problem for the Obama White House with several candidates said to have withdrawn after failing background checks.