Senate President Mike Miller (D) is keeping it All in the Family.
Maryland Matters has learned that Miller intends to hire Patrick Murray, a well-traveled Democratic strategist, as his new chief of staff. He will announce the hiring at a meeting Tuesday of the state Senate Democratic Caucus.
Murray, who starts his new position on Jan. 1, just nine days before the opening of the three-month General Assembly session, will take over from Victoria Gruber, Miller’s chief of staff for the past 11 years. She is about to take control of the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services.
For Murray, this represents a return to Miller’s office – and the State House. He served as Miller’s deputy chief of staff from 2008-2011, and prior to that, was senior policy analyst to House Speaker Mike Busch (D) for three years.
Murray has also worked as executive director at the Maryland Democratic Party and as campaign manager to U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D). He ran unsuccessfully for a House of Delegates seat from his native Harford County in 2014, and was director of state relations for the Johns Hopkins Institutions for almost four years before then.
Earlier in his career, Murray was executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party and was an operative for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
More recently, Murray has been teaching at American University and has been an organizer for Our Maryland, a liberal education group that just organized a conference for progressive activists who are gearing up for the 2018 legislative session and election.
Considering that Gruber’s hiring at DLS was announced just last week, it seems to make sense for Miller to bring Murray back. He knows the game and the players. He has relationships with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle – and in both chambers of the legislature. With the Senate likely to undergo major changes following the 2018 election, especially on the Democratic side, he will be a steady hand in Annapolis.
Of course, Murray has in recent months penned op-ed pieces attacking two Democratic senators – Bobby Zirkin, the chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, and Jim Brochin, who is leaving the Senate after 2018 to run for Baltimore County executive. Both Baltimore County lawmakers occasionally stray from party orthodoxy.
While Murray has worked the policy side at various intervals of his career, he is not the policy wonk or budget expert that Gruber is. But Murray and Miller’s deputy chief of staff and top political strategist, Jake Weissman, will make a formidable political team as this election season heats up – especially as Republicans target a handful of Democratic Senate districts.
Murray’s hiring might cause some consternation in the Hogan administration, where Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has generally maintained better relations with Miller than with Busch. But from Miller’s perspective, heading an increasingly liberal and restive caucus, facing some enmity from the GOP administration as a result of Murray’s hiring is probably not a bad thing.