Top O'Malley strategist Abbruzzese departs for private sector

When Gov. Martin O'Malley is stumped for a fact or a word, he typically cocks his head, turns to the side and says: "Rick."

That would be long-time aide Rick Abbruzzese, a staffer so deeply familiar with O'Malley's thinking that -- more often than not -- he can cough up the answer even if he hardly seems to be paying attention.

No more. Word spread today that Abbruzzese is leaving O'Malley-land to work for the lobbying firm Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan and Silver. There Abbruzzese will join O'Malley alum Josh White, who managed the governor's 2006 gubernatorial campaign.

O'Malley, in a statement, described Abbruzzese as “a trusted political advisor and friend to me personally, and a strong, effective advocate for the people of Maryland.""I will always be grateful for Rick’s commitment to me personally and for his service to the citizens of Baltimore and the State of Maryland. I wish Rick the very best in his future endeavors,” O'Malley said.

In a statement from the firm, Abbruzzese said he was "grateful" to O'Malley for "the tremendous opportunity and privilege" of working for the administration. “I look forward to new challenges assisting RLLS’ many clients in complex litigation, policy, and communications matters,” he said.

It's the second high-profile departure from the O'Mallely camp as the governor enters his final two years in office. Joe Bryce, the former chief legislative officer, just departed for Manis Canning & Associates.

Abbruzzese began working for O'Malley in 2003. He's since held the following titles: deputy press secretary, press secretary, deputy campaign manager, communications director and director of public affairs.

He's also occasionally referred to in print as "an Annapolis insider," "a source close to the governor" and -- we suspect -- "aides familiar with the governor's thinking." Informally, some in the press corps just call him "deputy governor."

It is difficult from the outside to see exactly what Abbruzzese does day-to-day -- particularly in recent years after he gave up his communications director job (and swank corner office) to Raquel Guillory.

This we know: Abbruzzese crops up in areas and issues important to O'Malley, whether on a trip to New Hampshire, helping to coordinate the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage or talking up a jobs bill.

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