- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Maryland’s newest member of Congress, Frank M. Kratovil Jr., will have a relatively short trip from his district on the Eastern Shore to his new office on Capitol Hill.

But he will face the same hurdles freshmen lawmakers from as far away as Alaska must clear: balancing family and work and learning to maneuver among the corridors of power in Washington and the nooks of his district.

Mr. Kratovil will rely on a mix of veteran Hill staffers and local political operatives to help him bridge those frequently divergent needs.

“You have to learn to walk before you run,” said Kevin Lawlor, a Hill veteran who will work as Mr. Kratovil’s press secretary.

Mr. Kratovil, a Democrat, upset his Republican opponent, state Sen. Andy Harris, in November and has been working almost full time since then to get ready for Congress, Mr. Lawlor said.

The congressman-elect has held three or four meetings daily with town councils, agriculture groups and others in his expansive Maryland district since winning.

At the same time, Mr. Kratovil, like other freshman lawmakers, is learning the minutiae of his new job.

A few weeks after the November elections, freshman congressmen were in Washington for new-member orientation, running the gamut from learning the subway system to understanding congressional ethics guidelines.

A few weeks after the formal orientation, Mr. Kratovil joined a few dozen other freshman lawmakers for a four-day workshop on organizing his staff, working the halls of power and maintaining a family life while working a demanding job.

Mr. Kratovil, 40, will commute daily from his Eastern Shore home to Capitol Hill so he can be with his wife, Kimberly, and their four sons regularly, Mr. Lawlor said.

Mr. Kratovil’s top staffers include the former constituent services manager for Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, the Republican who held the seat representing Maryland’s Eastern Shore for 18 years. In a surprising turn of political events, Mr. Gilchrest endorsed Mr. Kratovil as his replacement, not Mr. Harris, who had defeated the long-serving representative in a bitter primary contest.

Tyler Patton, Eastern Shore coordinator for Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, is leaving her office to work for Mr. Kratovil.

Kratovil campaign manager Tim McCann, a former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee staffer, will run the ship as chief of staff for the incoming lawmaker.

Mr. Kratovil also is bringing his office manager from his work as a county prosecutor on the Eastern Shore.

There’s no shortage of eager help for incoming lawmakers - Mr. Kratovil’s staffers sifted through thousands of resumes from candidates looking to make the vaunted jump to the Hill.

Mr. Lawlor said he personally received 250 to 300 e-mails from friends of friends, all bearing resumes, after the election.

Much as he did during the campaign, Mr. Kratovil has turned to the power brokers from the Maryland delegation for help, including Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the Montgomery County Democrat who directs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and steered more than $1 million to the Kratovil campaign.

The 111th Congress, which convenes Jan. 6, will include 51 new representatives and nine new senators.

As Mr. Kratovil is being sworn in, his office will be open to anyone who wants to see the proceedings on television.

“We want to set the tone early and let them know that Frank’s office is always open,” Mr. Lawlor said.

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