Josh Kurtz: Influencers, Part II

By Josh Kurtz

In-flu-ence: the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways.
– Merriam-Webster

Last month, Center Maryland published a list of 25 people we referred to as “Influencers” – from Annapolis lobbyists to Rob Hoffman. Here’s the second and final installment of the list, once again in alphabetical order.

Please remember that this list is entirely subjective and not meant to be definitive. Just because someone is missing from it doesn’t mean that he or she isn’t an “influencer.” We had a pretty big and impressive universe of important political players to choose from.

So without further ado, the rest of the list:

Intelligent Broadcasters: Unlike the vacuous baritones who largely populate the airwaves, these guys are smart and thoughtful and actually know Maryland politics. They’re able to illuminate issues and bring intelligent discourse to their viewers and listeners. You know who we’re talking about: Kojo Nnamdi on WAMU-FM. Jeff Salkin on Maryland Public Television. Bruce DePuyt on News Channel 8. Marc Steiner, who’s with WEAA-FM now. Dan Rodricks on WYPR-FM. (Ron Smith of WBAL would be on this list if he were still with us). Political leaders want to talk to them because they know that their messages will be heard, and that they won’t have to answer questions exclusively in mindless sound bites.

Ray Langston: This commissioner and former mayor of the historic African-American town of Highland Beach is an eminence grise in Anne Arundel County politics, whose counsel and support is a valued prize for aspiring Democratic officeholders, both within the county and beyond.

Tim Maloney: He’s way more powerful than he ever was as a state legislator, the ultimate Mr. Fix-It in Prince George’s County who knows where all the bodies are buried, with contacts in every corner of the county bureaucracy, in the county courthouse, in the school system, and out in the business and civic communities. And his reach and expertise are statewide, including as a big booster for the University of Maryland’s national emergence and a wise-man adviser to Governor O’Malley. The lawyer’s lawyer is always begging off speaking invitations from lawyers and judges across the State to focus on big trial work and the most sensitive public integrity matters, like successfully defending Uly Currie and Bruce Bereano.

Kevin Manning: President of Stevenson University (formerly Villa Julie College), he’s more than just an academic leader. He’s a man with a vision for the whole region, advising the Greater Baltimore Committee and throwing himself into myriad civic endeavors. The university has enjoyed explosive growth under his leadership and has the added distinction of being located near the Baltimore Ravens training headquarters.

Colleen Martin-Lauer: The fundraiser of choice for many Maryland Democrats, her stable currently includes Martin O’Malley, Anthony Brown and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. But she’s no mere event planner and money collector — she offers her clients sage strategic advice on a variety of fronts.

Archbishop William Lori and Cardinal William Wuerl: The Archdioceses of Baltimore and D.C. have traditionally played outsized roles in the Catholic Church, particularly with Baltimore serving as the birthplace of American Catholicism. Both of these religious leaders have taken on significant roles on behalf of the Catholic bishops, from appearances on the national television talk shows to, most recently, Archbishop Lori being tasked leading the Church’s national religious liberty effort.

Tom Lewis and Pat Murray: Both are strategists par excellence who are now happily ensconced in Johns Hopkins’ powerhouse lobbying operation. Lewis came up through the House of Delegates, working for both Cas Taylor and Mike Busch. But his ties to the Senate run deep, too, by way of marriage to Mike Miller’s top lieutenant, Vicki Gruber (one of Maryland’s most powerful women in her own right). When Lewis first took the job at Johns Hopkins, Bob Ehrlich tried to pressure them to let Lewis go – but Johns Hopkins thought he was so valuable that they refused to knuckle under to the sitting governor. And Murray, having worked for both Mike Miller and Mike Busch, knows how the sausage is made as well as anyone, and is able to simultaneously get down in the legislative weeds without ever losing sight of the big picture.

Fred Mason Jr.: He’s president of the Maryland-D.C. office of the AFL-CIO. And if that isn’t enough, he’s a member of the Democratic National Committee. That’s a pretty potent combination.

John McDonough: Talk about wily Prince George’s lawyers who know where all the bodies are buried, McDonough’s been a power in state and county affairs for more than 30 years. He’s Maryland Secretary of State now, a job with arcane but institutional power, fitting for someone who was one of Prince George’s County’s top land use attorneys and behind-the-scenes powerhouses for decades. His additional power largely emanates from his ongoing role as the guy who runs the state senators’ political slates in Prince George’s.

Maggie McIntosh: She’s a federal lobbyist for Johns Hopkins University. She’s at the nexus of Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s political network. She owns her own profitable political mail business. She ran the statewide coordinated campaign for Maryland Democrats in 2010. She is one of the most important advocates for same sex marriage in the state, engineering Ann Marie Doory’s appointment to the Board of Contract Appeals to get one “no” vote on gay marriage out of the legislature, as just one example. And oh yeah, almost incidentally, she’s chairwoman of the House Environmental Matters Committee in Annapolis and odds-on favorite to become the next Speaker if that job becomes vacant any time soon.

Martha McKenna: This former political director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in Washington now heads the committee’s all-important independent expenditure unit while signing clients for her growing media consulting firm. But while she’s a player in national politics, she hasn’t “gone Washington,” heading home to Baltimore every night, where she continues to pay close attention to Maryland politics. Her latest project on the home front – not including her first child, who is due in August – is Emerge Maryland, a group dedicated to electing more women to public office through recruitment and training programs.

Rachel Garbow Monroe: The reach of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation is profound, and as its president, Monroe is at the center of all its activities. Whether she’s administering the foundation’s generous grant programs, weighing in on social policy, or participating in a range of civic affairs, Monroe has become an indispensable part of the Baltimore community – and one of Maryland’s most powerful people.

Todd Morgan: Yes, he’s a St. Mary’s County commissioner and a rising star in Southern Maryland politics – and he’s already being recruited by Republicans to challenge either state Sen. Roy Dyson (D) or Del. John Bohanan (D) in 2014. But equally important, he’s president of the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance, a forward-looking business and civic group in a rapidly changing region, designed to support and promote the Patuxent River Naval Station and the businesses and industries that feed off it. While wearing both hats, he’s never taken his eyes off the most important prize: caring for his wife, who was in a horrific car accident last summer and remains in rehabilitation.

New City Alliance and Sang Oh (Changing the Face of Howard County Development): A quartet of Howard County business leaders, two Democrats and two Republicans – Mike Davis, David Yungmann, Lin Egan and architect/planner Phil Engleke – are changing the way residents think about growth and development and their communities. They took on the upzoning and redevelopment of Columbia with remarkable civility, and delivered 13.5 million square feet of density to build the kind of city that Jim Rouse always envisioned. The New City Alliance raised money to promote density, walkability, culture and arts in downtown Columbia. From “Walk Much?” bumper stickers to four different Facebook pages they improved upon the old axiom about land use – It’s all about who shows up…online. And attorney Sang Oh – a confidant of each member of the Howard County Council, who served as a top adviser to both Jim Robey and Ken Ulman – fended off a referendum challenge to the huge downtown Columbia redevelopment. He’s a quiet force who smiles knowingly when Howard County is selected as a national leader for its libraries, schools and quality of life.

Colm O’Comartun: When Martin O’Malley runs for president in 2016, O’Comartun, the Irish émigré who has proven to be a hard-nosed and forward-looking political strategist, will be the seasoned governor’s point man. For now, he’s O’Malley’s eyes and ears in Washington – and around the country – in his role as executive director of the Democratic Governors Association. It may turn into a brutal year for Democrats at the gubernatorial level – the party is playing defense in some crucial states. But that won’t interfere with O’Comartun’s intelligence- and chit-gathering for the boss.

Adrienne Ottaviani: Coal, and extractive industries in general, are much in the news these days, in Maryland and throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. As executive director of the Maryland Coal Association, Ottaviani is in the thick of many policy debates, and her support is critical for Western Maryland pols and officials looking to run statewide and hoping for a piece of the rural vote. Ristorante Ottaviani, the Italian restaurant she and her husband Tony own in downtown Cumberland, is a popular gathering spot and political listening post in that part of the world.

Tom Perez: The most important Marylander in the federal government right now (runners-up: Gary Gensler and John Porcari – sorry, members of Congress), Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, finds himself at the very center of public fights over such hot-button issues as immigration, voting rights and political redistricting. And while he hasn’t been closely involved in Maryland affairs since he left the O’Malley cabinet to join the Obama administration, just the notion that Perez could run for high office in the not-too-distant future keeps several other ambitious Maryland politicians off balance. For locals who miss Perez, many are mentioning his name on the short list to run for Montgomery County Executive.

Bruce Poole: Far removed from his days as House Majority Leader, Poole has seen enough of how Annapolis works and how it doesn’t – both from his time in the legislature, as an insider and then an outsider, and from his service on the State Ethics Commission – that he can offer invaluable perspective and advice to anyone who needs it. And with Democrats a dying breed west of Frederick, he’s one of the few political wise men out there who aspiring statewide candidates need to confer with.

Jim Shea: Venable LLP is a Baltimore-D.C. law firm with a global reach, with offices inside and around both beltways as well as in New York and L.A. It has a diverse practice with a huge stable of accomplished professionals, from savvy Maryland insiders like John Stierhoff and Glenn Ivey and Peter O’Malley to Washington eminences like Benjamin Civiletti and Birch Bayh and Bart Stupak. Presiding over it all as chairman is Shea, a political player and civic do-gooder. Now that his brother has landed at the firm, no one would be surprised to see Gov. O’Malley park there when his term ends at the beginning of 2015, when he presumably will be trying to make his way in national politics.

The Southern Land Company: Led by long-time leaders of the Homebuilders Association, David Altfeld and Ron Schaftel, the company is viewed as one of the savviest real estate investors in Maryland. They play well with both parties in the spirit of getting things done and had the foresight to be Center Maryland’s first corporate partner. With super–size political friends like Doug Gansler, Will Baker and Martin O’Malley, it will be interesting to see where they commit their inspiration and resources next.

Gustavo Torres: From its humble origins as a workers’ rights organization for Central American immigrants in the D.C. suburbs, Casa de Maryland has grown in its quarter century of existence into a multi-faceted, statewide community service and advocacy organization with estimable political allies, led by the dedicated and visionary Torres, who grew up in Colombia and dreams of taking Casa national. But he may face the biggest test of his political juice yet with the fight to defeat a ballot measure this fall seeking to overturn the DREAM Act.

Mark Wasserman: There are former aides to William Donald Schaefer all across Maryland political and civic life, but Wasserman, who went to work for Willie Don at City Hall in 1976, stands out as the one who has best managed to move out from under the boss’ shadow – and may have the most diversified portfolio as a result, becoming something akin to the Clark Clifford of Maryland. For starters, unlike many of his Schaefer colleagues, he showed no outward hostility to Parris Glendening when Glendening replaced their hero as governor, and that served him well. He’s now senior vice president of external affairs and development at the University of Maryland Medical System. But as everyone who knows him well will tell you, he’s so much more.

Mike Whitson: This business and civic leader in St. Mary’s County runs a real estate and insurance business. But he’s better known as a top money man for Steny Hoyer and John Bohanan who serves on the Maryland Transportation Authority and is the leading fundraiser and booster for the historic Sotterly Plantation down there.

Rev. Harlie Wilson: As we noted last week, lots of ministers in Baltimore and Prince George’s County have tremendous influence. But a true measure of Wilson’s power was evident during the votes on gay marriage in the House and Senate this year. Legislators from East Baltimore arrayed almost unanimously against it, thanks in no small measure to the influence of Wilson, the leader of Israel Baptist Church.

Fred Yang: He’s best known in the national arena, as a partner in the powerhouse Democratic polling firm Garin-Hart-Yang, one of the best there is. But this Bethesda resident also has plenty of stroke in Maryland, with clients that include Martin O’Malley, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Ken Ulman and John Delaney.

So how’d we do? We’d love to hear your feedback – and any recommendations for people you would have put on the “Influencers” list. If we get enough suggestions, we’ll run a follow-up column soon. Please let me know if you want your suggestions and comments to appear anonymously, or with your name attached. Thanks for reading!

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

Recent Center Maryland columns by Josh Kurtz:

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


Generally Speaking (Part 2)

Generally Speaking (Part 1)

Charm Offensive

Bad Karma in Annapolis II — Limbo Edition

Heather Mizeur, Superstar