- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 22, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s new Democratic Party chairman is stepping into the job during a rejuvenating period for Democrats in the state.

Now, Michael Cryor wants to make sure the party doesn’t rest too easy.

While Democrats have regained the governor’s office after Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. became Maryland’s first Republican governor in 36 years in 2002, Mr. Cryor said it’s crucial to avoid complacency.

“I think it’s back to a political majority that invites us to think differently about how we preserve it,” Mr. Cryor said.

Mr. Cryor, the affable head of a Baltimore public relations firm, said it will require the party that also controls the General Assembly to reach out to voters who had voted Democratic in the past but switched in 2002 to Mr. Ehrlich. While registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly two-to-one in Maryland, Mr. Ehrlich picked up about 46 percent of the vote in the latest election.

“You can consider this, while not a new party, a refreshed party that appreciates the need for real planning, for cultivating relationships with its base and cultivating new relationships,” Mr. Cryor, 60, said in a recent interview.

To do that, he’ll focus on using the Internet and podcasting to reach constituents, particularly as he tries to reach out to young people. He wants to make sure the party underscores the importance of getting the right training to volunteers to maximize their efforts. Mr. Cryor also said he’s planning to think about the next generation of Democrats and the next election.

Mr. Cryor, a Baltimore native, was selected last month to replace Terry Lierman, who left to become chief of staff for House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.

Mr. Lierman, who held the post for more than two years, was known for his fundraising prowess, and Mr. Cryor said raising money will remain a top priority.

Mr. Cryor has a full-time staff of six persons at the party’s Annapolis headquarters, which is on the bottom floor of a building on Main Street. He said he expects to fill three more positions soon.

The party chairman’s job is unpaid, so Mr. Cryor will continue as head of the Cryor Group, which specializes in public relations on urban policy and health care issues. He said he spends about two days a week working for the party, though that can vary.

Mr. Cryor said he’ll be careful to avoid any conflict of interest while holding the two jobs. For example, he said he won’t work again for Magna Entertainment Corp., a Canadian company that owns Maryland horse racing tracks and wants slot machine gambling legalized in the state. Mr. Cryor’s firm worked for Magna more than three years ago, he said, and it hasn’t been involved with them since.

“I will put that aside,” Mr. Cryor said. “I think it would be a conflict for me to assume a relationship with them.”

While excited about his new role, it wasn’t something he had planned on doing, and it took some convincing from Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, and other state officials.

Mr. Cryor worked for the governor briefly when Mr. O’Malley was the mayor of Baltimore. Mr. O’Malley had asked for his help in putting together a communications office, and Mr. Cryor had an office at City Hall for a while.