Demo­cratic Party picks new di­rec­tor

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER - BY RACHEL WEINER AND OVETTA WIGGINS rachel.weiner@wash­post.com ovetta.wiggins@wash­post.com

Mary­land Democrats have named State House vet­eran Pa­trick Mur­ray as their ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor as the state party con­tin­ues to re­group in the wake of last year’s gu­ber­na­to­rial loss.

Cur­rently the di­rec­tor of state af­fairs at Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity, Mur­ray worked as an aide in the Gen­eral Assem­bly to Se­nate Pres­i­dent Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arun­del).

He ran un­suc­cess­fully last year for a seat in the House of Del­e­gates. Mur­ray has also served as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Kansas Demo­cratic Party, an ex­pe­ri­ence that state Demo­cratic Party Chair­man D. Bruce Poole said was key to the choice.

Mur­ray’s se­lec­tion, first re­ported by the blog Cen­ter Mary­land, was an­nounced in an e-mail from Poole to fel­low Demo­cratic lead­ers Fri­day af­ter­noon. There were nearly 30 ap­pli­cants for the po­si­tion, Poole said, which was nar­rowed to five fi­nal­ists in­ter­viewed by a search com­mit­tee.

Busch said he was pleased with Poole’s se­lec­tion of Mur­ray.

“He has a thor­ough un­der­stand­ing not only of the party, but un­der­stands the Gen­eral Assem­bly and the nu­mer­ous con­gres­sional dis­tricts,” Busch said. “I know they had a lot of good can­di­dates, but Pa­trick Mur­ray will stand out as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.”

Busch, who was in­stru­men­tal in Poole’s se­lec­tion as chair­man, said he plans to con­tinue to play a key role in the party’s fu­ture and looks for­ward to Poole and Mur­ray mov­ing the party for­ward.

Busch said the goals for the party are to in­crease reg­is­tra­tion and turnout, to raise money, to re­cruit can­di­dates and to de­fend seats.

“The last elec­tion proved cer­tainly that there is a chal­lenge out there,” Busch said. “Ob­vi­ously af­ter the last elec­tion, you have to be in­tro­spec­tive. And with the na­tional elec­tion com­ing up, we­have to look at how do you en­gage your base.”

Then-Lt. Gov. An­thony G. Brown lost the 2014 gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion to Larry Ho­gan (R), a stun­ning up­set in a state where Democrats out­num­ber Repub­li­cans by more than 2 to 1. The Democrats also lost sev­eral leg­isla­tive seats but re­tained strong ma­jori­ties in both cham­bers.

Since that elec­tion, Democrats have been fo­cused on re­vamp­ing the party and their strat­egy in time for next year. More changes will be com­ing, Poole said, as Democrats “start work­ing on the de­tails of be­ing an ef­fec­tive, mod­ern po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

“We have to win in 2016, which may sound rel­a­tively sim­plis­tic, but that is a mat­ter of get­ting the can­di­dates fo­cused and get­ting the cam­paigns run­ning smoothly,” Poole said. “I think we were off mes­sage in 2014. I think we made a real mis­take of not be­ing on the of­fense and talk­ing about the pos­i­tives of Mary­land and pos­i­tive ac­com­plish­ments of Mary­land Democrats.”

As ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Mur­ray will be in charge of the day-to-day work of the party or­ga­ni­za­tion. He will be­gin in his post early in July, Poole said, although his ap­point­ment will not be of­fi­cial un­til the party ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meets later in the month.

Poole took over the chair­man­ship from Yvette Lewis, who left in March.

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