Michael Gisriel may have only served one term in the House of Delegates, but, by his own reckoning, he's "literally worked every session in Annapolis since 1979," counseling politicians and lobbying for various industries.
In 2015, he wants to return as a delegate for the newly redrawn District 12, which represents parts of Howard and Baltimore counties. All three of the district's current delegates have announced they will retire at the end of the 2014 legislative session.
In a race already bustling with six other candidates and at least two more rumored to file soon, Gisriel argued he's the most experienced of the lot.
"I think the more the merrier," he said of the jam-packed race. "My whole campaign is I'm an experienced, effective choice."
Gisriel, 62, a Democrat, got his start in politics as counsel to then-Senate majority leader Rosalie Abrams in 1979.
In 1986, he was elected to a seat in the House of Delegates for District 9, which then represented the Towson area. He served one term, losing his seat to Gerry Brewster in the 1990 election after finishing fourth in a three-seat race.
And he suffered a rough patch in 2009, when he was disbarred for what he calls "a thousand-dollar mistake." He deposited a check destined to a former client who owed him money, which he says was a hasty error made right before leaving for vacation. The Court of Appeals voted to disbar him in a 5-2 decision.
"It was the worst thing that ever happened to me, but you find out who your friends are," Gisriel said.
He found he had a lot of friends in the State House: Gisriel has worked for decades as a lobbyist for a variety of industries, from health clubs to music publishing.
"In the past I've worked with – you name it," he said.
Currently, he works as a lobbyist for Best Friends Animal Society and is trying to pass a bill that would make dog owners renting a house or apartment responsible for their pet's behavior. The group hopes the bill will clear up recent issues with pit bull terriers being banned from many apartment complexes.
Gisriel — or "Giz" to his friends at the State House — said his familiarity with the way things work in the General Assembly was one of the reasons he decided to run.
"I was approached by a number of political and business leaders, saying Mike… you know Annapolis, why don't you run?" he said.
If he is elected, he said he plans to help the other two delegates with navigating committee assignments and bill sponsorships.
"It would be nice if we had one with experience who could get things done from Day 1," he said.
Though he's a lifelong Maryland resident, Gisriel is new to District 12. With their adult children out of the house, he and his wife recently moved to his wife's hometown of Catonsville. The family had previously lived in Roland Park.
Gisriel's priority is making sure voters from his district get their "fair share." To do that, he said, "you've got to know where the money is and how it works."
He cited education, job creation, public safety and support for senior citizens as other chief concerns.
"Whether you're from Howard County, Arbutus, Catonsville, Lansdowne, Halethorpe — the issues you deal with all get done in Annapolis," he said.