"I'm a behind-the-scenes kind of guy," said Michael E. Cryor, 60, of Baltimore, who was co-chairman of O'Malley's "Believe" campaign when he was mayor. "This is a little bit of a change for me. I'm looking forward to the challenge."
African-American leaders have expressed concern about the state party's commitment to blacks in recent elections.
The 2002 statewide ticket didn't include any blacks, and a prominent black leader was defeated for the U.S. Senate nomination after party leaders coalesced around his opponent. O'Malley selected an African-American, then-Del. Anthony G. Brown, as his running mate last year.
Cryor, a communications consultant and host for 10 years of WJZ-TV's talk show On Time, said his race is an "added benefit."
He must win a vote of the 300-member Democratic State Central Committee at a June 16 meeting in Lanham. Other candidates could be nominated for the position, but state Democratic Party aides say that with the governor's backing of Cryor, the committee vote is a formality.
"The governor has worked closely with Mike Cryor for years and believes he will make a great party chairman," O'Malley spokesman Steve Kearney said yesterday.
Kearney said Cryor is supported by many other state party officials, including state Sens. Ulysses Currie of Prince George's County and Nathaniel J. McFadden of Baltimore, as well as U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.
"Michael Cryor is a talented, seasoned professional who can build on our Democratic victories," Mikulski said in a statement. "He is a great choice."
If approved, Cryor would replace Terry Lierman, who is leaving the job after 2 1/2 years to become chief of staff to House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer. Lierman led a party sweep last year of key state races, including the gubernatorial contest that pitted O'Malley against Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., and Maryland's U.S. Senate battle between then-Democratic Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and Republican Michael S. Steele, then the lieutenant governor.
It was the latter contest, in particular, that prompted some black Democrats to criticize the party for not doing more to promote a black candidate for Senate. Cardin, who is white, defeated former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chief Kweisi Mfume in the Democratic primary. Some Prince George's County Democrats backed Steele, who is black, over Cardin during the general election contest.
Despite that friction, the state party remains in fine form after Lierman's tenure, having broadened it's fundraising base and strengthened its numbers in the state House and Senate.
Lierman applauded O'Malley's selection, saying he is confident that the state central committee will support Cryor.
"I think it's very important to note that he's been a successful businessman, he has the governor's ear, and there's no reason to expect that he'll be anything other than excellent in all the roles required of the party chair," Lierman said.
Cryor's background is in communications strategy and public relations, not fundraising. He is not registered now as a lobbyist with the state, but he said yesterday that he had registered previously.
Cryor said that about three years ago, he did "a little bit of lobbying [and] community development" for Magna Entertainment Corp., which owns Pimlico and Laurel Park racetracks. He said he represents Forest City Science and Technology Group, master developer for the Johns Hopkins University's science and technology park in East Baltimore.
Cryor, who earned a bachelor's degree from Morgan State University and a master's degree from Montclair State University in New Jersey, first met O'Malley during the 1986 U.S. Senate campaign - though they were working for different candidates.
Married with a daughter, Cryor is a member of the Board of Visitors at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and on the board of Sturdivant & Co., a New Jersey-based financial investment company, according to biographical information circulated by the governor's office. His other past and present affiliations include the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Afro American Newspapers and chairman of the board of the Associated Black Charities of Maryland.
Cryor said he was a paid communications consultant to the city when O'Malley was mayor.
"I think he trusts my counsel and my opinion on things," Cryor said.