Josh Kurtz -- Influencers: The Readers Speak

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By Josh Kurtz

Put together a list, especially a subjective one, and you’re bound to invite all kinds of scrutiny and scorn.

You also get a pretty good conversation going.

These are some of the things we discovered after we published a list of 50 Maryland powerbrokers we referred to as “The Influencers.”

We’re hardly surprised.

There are a lot of people out there whose work deserves to be recognized -- and they have a lot of boosters. Annapolis lobbyists, who we lumped into one category on our list, got an especially high number of “Hey, you missed…” shout-outs.

As we said from the outset, we never meant to lay out a definitive list. We simply chose an array of people whose work captured our imagination and impressed us. Any number of others could have been mentioned.

And so now, the readers get their say. What follows is a list, in alphabetical order, of people -- or institutions -- that our readers suggested rated inclusion on our list. We can’t argue. And so, we present them here (with continued apologies for anyone who still might have been overlooked).

Alexander & Cleaver: Perennially one of the top earning lobbying firms in Annapolis.

Peter Angelos: The one and only.

Jeremy Baker/Alex Hughes: Top aides for Mike Busch. Baker protects the speaker’s inside flank, running interference with his members, while Hughes protects his outside flank, providing policy and communications advice.

Bruce Bereano: Still the one. For many pols the Crisfield crab feast ought to be renamed the Bereano crab feast.

Capitol Strategies: Annapolis lobbyists and strategists with unparalleled political smarts and “Mad Men” cool.

John Colmers: Chairman of the HSCRC and Hopkins official has a lot riding on the fallout over Maryland’s favor to win a federal Medicaid waiver. If the problem is fixed, he’s a hero. If not…

Bob Enten: Powerhouse lobbyist who is especially influential on banking matters.

Eric Gally: One of the few “white hat” lobbyists in Annapolis who truly succeeds at working the system.

Jon Gerson: The political director for the Montgomery County teachers’ union has as many enemies as friends. But there’s no denying his political savvy -- and power. Fear and loathing is a potent combination.

Vicki Gruber/Kristin Jones: These very effective, and very smart, women run the show for, respectively, Mike Miller and Mike Busch. The Speaker and Senate President both have repeatedly demonstrated an ability to recruit top quality staffers.

Barbara Hoffman: Who wouldn’t want to have the whip-smart former chairwoman of the Senate Budget and Tax Committee as their advocate?

P.J. Hogan: Walked away from the political game several years ago, but remains a force in Annapolis as the chief government affairs liaison for the University of Maryland System. It would not be a surprise to see him wind up in a top position -- maybe as budget director -- for the next governor.

Freeman Hrabowski: UMBC is a national superstar, and Hrabowski along with it. Maryland leaders have held their collective breath for years waiting to see what his next act might be -- and if he’ll abandon us. But so far, to everyone’s relief, he remains true and is sticking around.

Mike Johansen: All-around talented lobbyist with health care policy chops.

Brit Kirwan: First the University of Maryland, then the University of Maryland System, grew to become an equal to their regional competitors under his leadership.

Nancy Kopp: After almost 40 years in public office, the last decade as state treasurer, there’s no denying that her quiet, intellectual presence has made a huge different in Marylanders’ lives.

Steve Lebowitz: Oppo researcher made Bob Ehrlich’s comeback even more difficult than it was going to be. And he remains a thorn in the side of Michael Steele and other Maryland Republicans.

Len Lucchi: The sage of Bowie, another Prince George’s lawyer/lobbyist who knows everything and everyone, both in Annapolis and Upper Marlboro. Has worked for Wayne Curry and Jack Johnson, and now has Rushern Baker’s back.

Maryland League of Conservation Voters: We put Will Baker of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation on our Influencers list. But there’s no mistaking Maryland LCV’s influence in Annapolis and at the ballot box.

Ken Michael: Prince George’s real estate guy with powerful friends.

David Moon: With his Maryland Juice blog, this uber-smart, passionate operative/activist is picking up where his old blogger friend Adam Pagnucco left off. A must-read for political people, especially in Montgomery County.

Patrick Moran: AFSCME’s Maryland director, and a rising star in the national union.

Neil Parrott: We didn’t put many elected officials on our list. But Parrott deserves recognition -- not for his legislative work in Annapolis, but as a conservative provocateur who is working the system by successfully getting conservative priorities on the November ballot.

David Paulson: Sharp-elbowed communications strategists landed recently in Doug Gansler’s shop, and Gansler is lucky to have him.

Larry Rosenblum: Valuable Montgomery County political kibbitzer, an accountant and former Chamber of Commerce leader who is close to Ike Leggett and the Kramer family. While continuing to be a part of Leggett’s kitchen cabinet, his self-appointed role for the 2014 election cycle is to get his friend Ben Kramer elected Montgomery County executive.

John Stierhoff: Lobbyist with unparalleled access and quiet influence.

Pegeen Townsend: Has forgotten more about health care policy than most people have ever known. Currently plying her trade with Med-Star after years with the Maryland Hospital Association.

Susie Turnbull: Democratic superstar. Important in D.C., important in Maryland, important in Jewish circles. She’s done as much to advance women’s causes in Maryland as anyone around.

Jason Waskey: Talented operative running the Obama campaign in Maryland -- and he’ll be much in demand in 2014.

Jerry Weast: He’s retired now, but the former Montgomery County school superintendent’s 12-year tenure sets the standard for his successors in Rockville and for educators all across the state.

And last, but not least, we can’t count the number of comments we received from people wondering why Don Fry of the Greater Baltimore Committee wasn’t on the original list. He’s undeniably an Influencer, but we didn’t include him because, well, it wouldn’t be right to list people associated with this website. But here is a tip of the hat to my fellow Center Maryland columnist.

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at .

Recent Center Maryland columns by Josh Kurtz:

Will Battaglia Run for AG in 2014?


You Can Still Probably Bet Against Roscoe Bartlett

Ten Years After

Influencers, Part II

The Influencers, Part I

Left, Right and Center

Road to Succeed Pelosi May Run Through Maryland

A Change Is Gonna Come (And The Audacity of Nope)

Say Cheese

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Josh Kurtz has been writing about Maryland politics since late 1995. Louie Goldstein, William Donald Schaefer and Pete Rawlings were alive, but the Intercounty Connector, as far as anyone could tell, was dead.

But some things never change: Mike Miller is still in charge of the Senate. Gerry Evans and Bruce Bereano are among the top-earning lobbyists in Annapolis. Steny Hoyer is still waiting for Nancy Pelosi to disappear. And Maryland Republicans are still struggling to be relevant.

The media landscape in Maryland has changed a lot, and Kurtz is happy to write weekly for Center Maryland. He's been writing a column for the website since it launched in January 2010.

In his "real" job, Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily down on Capitol Hill. But he'll always find Maryland politics more fascinating.

Kurtz grew up in New York City and attended public schools there. He has a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. He's married with two daughters and lives in Takoma Park, Md. He hopes you'll drop him a line, or maybe go out for a meal with him, because he's always hungry -- for political gossip.