Josh Kurtz: Pat Murray Takes the Plunge

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By: Josh Kurtz 

Patrick Murray, a former top aide to both Senate President Mike Miller (D) and House Speaker Mike Busch (D) and one of the most respected strategists in Maryland politics, will run for a seat in the House of Delegates this year.

Murray, currently the director of State Affairs for Johns Hopkins University, filed papers Friday afternoon to become a candidate in District 34A in Harford County, the community where he grew up.

“Maryland has a real opportunity to build innovative partnerships to breathe new life into our economy. I am running because we need leaders in the General Assembly who will seize this chance to develop smarter solutions to familiar challenges,” Murray said in an email to friends and political associates that went out late Friday afternoon.

“Growing up in Harford County, I learned the importance of personal integrity, hard work, and common sense. These values have guided my career. At Johns Hopkins, I helped develop groundbreaking programs to grow our state’s innovation economy. As a former legislative staffer, I am ready to hit the ground running in Annapolis.”

Murray becomes the fourth Democrat seeking one of the two seats in District 34A, which takes in the Harford County communities of Aberdeen and Havre de Grace, among others. Already running on the Democratic side are Harford County Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti; retired teacher Marla Posey-Moss, who was a Democratic nominee in 2010 but finished third in the general election; and businessman and civic activist Steve Johnson.

One of the subdistrict’s two House incumbents, Del. Mary-Dulany James (D), is running for the Senate seat left vacant by the looming retirement of GOP Sen. Nancy Jacobs. The district’s other House incumbent, Del. Glen Glass, is a Republican. The only other Republican to have filed for the House seat at the moment is Mike Blizzard, a local coach and community college administrator.

Murray, who is 34, grew up in Bel Air, the Harford County seat. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, and later earned a law degree from the University of Maryland after years of working in politics, both in Maryland and around the country. He spent six years working in the State House before joining Hopkins’ lobbying team in late 2011.

Murray moved from Baltimore City, where he has lived for several years, to Belcamp, where he has bought a condo, just last week. He plans to continue working for the university full time until the end of the General Assembly session in April, driving home every night from Annapolis to Belcamp, and then hopes to adjust his schedule to allow more time for campaigning. In an interview, Murray said he began door-knocking this weekend, and will continue to do so every weekend through the end of session.

Whether Murray becomes vulnerable to charges that he is a carpetbagger remains to be seen. But the old political hand has already developed a line of defense against the criticism.

“It’s all about Harford sending folks to Annapolis who are able to get results for the county, and I think I’m better equipped to do that than anybody in the race,” he said.

Even though he’s joining the campaign late, Murray doesn’t appear to be at any kind of financial disadvantage in the Democratic primary. According to their January campaign finance reports, Johnson had less than $1,100 in his campaign account, Posey-Moss had $500 on hand, and Lisanti had no money at all. Even Glass, the lone incumbent in the race, reported just $3,100 in the bank. Murray, with his wealth of powerful connections throughout the state, should be able to quickly eclipse his rivals on the fundraising front.

Murray joins a handful of other former Maryland political staffers who are seeking legislative seats this year. The list includes Shelly Hettleman, a former campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D), who is running for a House seat in Baltimore County’s 11th district; David Sloan, a former aide to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and one-time executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, who is running for a House seat in the 26th district in Prince George’s County; and Nick Stewart, a former O’Malley speechwriter running for a House seat in the 12th district, which covers parts of Howard and Baltimore counties.

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

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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.