Gov. Rendell's press secretary, Kate Philips, is taking a leave from the administration to become spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Bob Brady's mayoral campaign, Philips confirmed last night.

Philips said Brady spoke to her and Rendell Thursday about the idea, and Rendell agreed to give Philips a leave of absence until after the May 15 primary.

"The governor was very kind and gracious about it," Philips said in a phone interview last night. "Both he and Bob Brady are straight-talking honest, decent guys, and I'm really excited about this."

Philips isn't new to campaigns.

Before joining Rendell's staff in 2003, Philips was spokeswoman for the ill-fated Maryland gubernatorial campaign of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy.

Philips will remain with Rendell until Wednesday. She said her move shouldn't be interpreted as a Rendell tilt toward Brady in the mayor's race.

"The governor hasn't endorsed anyone," Philips said.

Brady was the latest among the five major Democratic candidates to enter the mayoral field, declaring his candidacy Jan. 25.

Philips said she expects to return to the Rendell administration after the primary election. *