WESTPORT — Democratic Town Committee chairwoman and Representative Town Meeting member Melissa Kane announced her candidacy for first selectman last week.

“I think what I’m really interested in doing is ensuring the town’s economic vibrancy and maintaining the quality of life,” Kane, 48, said.

The RTM member for District 3 for the past four years, Kane also leads the DTC and served as the co-chairwoman of the downtown implementation committee. Her campaign website, MelissaforWestport.org, recently launched.

Kane steps into the race for the four-year term as the only Democratic challenger to Republican incumbent First Selectman Jim Marpe. Many expected a challenge from state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-136, who formed an exploratory committee in March.

Earlier this month, Steinberg officially declared his intention not to seek the DTC’s nomination, citing his obligations in the Connecticut General Assembly.

Until Steinberg dropped out of the race, Kane was not considering running for the town’s highest office.

“I wasn’t going to run. We really all thought Jonathan was going to run, and I was completely behind him,” Kane said. But after Steinberg announced his intention to end his exploratory committee, people — including Steinberg — urged Kane to run. “After that went public, many, many people asked me to run,” she said. “I couldn’t possibly guess (the number) — many people.”

Before withdrawing his name from the race, Steinberg had raised just $100 for his campaign. Michael Rea, a Republican and member of the finance board, opened an exploratory committee in March and had raised $375 as of April 10. Marpe and his running mate, Jen Tooker, a Republican, have raised $13,930. The next filing date is July 1.

Mape, 70, said he welcomes the challenge from the Democrats.

“From my standpoint, I think having an opponent always makes for a stronger campaign and helps focus. I enjoy the campaign process and it gives the ability to meet with our residents, often on a more formal basis and learn what’s on their minds,” Marpe said.

“We face difficult challenges with the state’s financial crisis, so it’s important that we’re doing that with tested leadership and broad experience, which I believe my team continues to bring to the challenges that Westport faces,” he said.

Marpe still needs to secure the nomination from the Republican Town Committee next month, as does Kane with the DTC, which votes on July 18.

A graduate of Mount Holyoke College with a degree in international relations, Kane has been a publicist in the music industry and a freelance writer. In 2002, Kane left New York City to start a floral design business in Westport, where she lives with her husband, Jonathan, and her children, George and Lily.

She ran for the RTM in 2011, the same year she became a member of the DTC, and, two years later, unsuccessfully ran on a ticket with Selectman Helen Garten during Garten’s bid for first selectman.

Garten, a Democrat, is not seeking another term, nor is Selectman Avi Kaner, a Republican.

For the time being, Kane said she would remain the DTC’s chairwoman and if she’s nominated, she will resign her post.

As of now, there is nobody lined up to fill Kane’s position as the head of the DTC. If the DTC nominates Kane, she said in a text, “We have a very strong executive committee who will cross that bridge when and if we come to it.”

@chrismmarquette; cmarquette@bcnnew.com