Hoyer Hires Lierman

Posted May 11, 2007 at 6:40pm

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has tapped Terry Lierman, a longtime fixture in Maryland politics and the current chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, to serve as his chief of staff. Lierman will replace Bill Cable, who is retiring in June after a Congressional career spanning more than 40 years.

“Terry is very close to me and I chose him because I think he will bring to our office a real energy, excellent management skills and political savvy,” Hoyer said in an interview Friday. Lierman is expected to have a broad portfolio, and Hoyer said the new chief of staff will be the “manager of the entire operation” with hands in the Majority Leader’s office, Hoyer’s personal office, his policy shop and his political operation.

The two Marylanders have known each other for more than two decades. Lierman said Friday that the Majority Leader made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“When someone I admire and have worked so well with over the years like Steny Hoyer calls, of course you say yes,” Lierman said. “I feel like I’ve been in training for this job my entire life.”

A Wisconsin native, Lierman, 58, has spent more than 30 years on Capitol Hill and in Maryland politics.

He first arrived on Capitol Hill in the 1970s and eventually became staff director for the Senate Appropriations Committee under then-Chairman Warren Magnuson (D-Wash.). In the early 1980s, he opened up a lobbying shop, Capitol Associates Inc., which focused on serving nonprofits, health care, medical research and education entities. As his business prospered, Lierman became a major Democratic donor.

He boasts an extensive Congressional Rolodex and has direct access to senior lawmakers in the House and Senate.

“Terry is a class act, a great friend and a true public servant,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). “Steny couldn’t have made a better choice for the Democrats and the people of Maryland.”

In 2000, Lierman decided to become a candidate himself, challenging then-Rep. Connie Morella (R) in Maryland’s 8th district. Despite the liberal lean of the suburban district, Morella had steamrolled her Democratic opponents since first winning the seat in 1986. Yet Lierman — who invested more than $1.5 million of his own money on the race — built a strong grass-roots organization and appeared to be surging. He received fundraising help from President Bill Clinton and many other Democratic luminaries.

But a week before the election, The Washington Post reported that during the previous year Lierman had given Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), a close friend, an unsecured, open-ended $25,000 loan and that the Congressman later had supported legislation that was favorable to one of Lierman’s lobbying clients. Lierman’s momentum screeched to a halt, and he wound up losing by 6 points — though he is credited with softening up the popular Morella for defeat two years later by Chris Van Hollen (D), who is currently chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

In the 2004 election cycle, Lierman became national finance co-chairman of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s (D) presidential campaign, moving to Burlington for several months until Dean bowed out of the race. With Hoyer frequently allied with more moderate elements in the Democratic Party, Lierman’s ties to Dean and the liberal wing could prove invaluable to the Majority Leader — even if they won’t see eye to eye on every issue.

“If two people agree all the time, one of them isn’t necessary,” Lierman said.

Hoyer added that his support within the Democratic Caucus combined with Lierman’s credentials with liberal outfits will be an asset to the office. “That’s not the reason I chose him, but that’s an added benefit,” Hoyer said, noting that Lierman has extensive experience with outside coalitions and grass-roots efforts.

In late 2004, with Hoyer’s support, Lierman was elected chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party. He helped restock the party organization’s coffers and presided over Democrats’ capture of the governor’s mansion and retention of an imperiled Senate seat.

But even though new Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) asked Lierman to stay in his party post, Lierman said he is eager to get back to policy work.

Asked how he would feel answering to Hoyer after so many years as his own boss, Lierman replied, “Once a staff guy, always a staff guy.”

As for Cable, 62, he said Friday that he is “totally retiring” and has no interest in future employment on the Hill, K Street or anywhere else.

“Been there, done that,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to the next phase of my life.”

Cable lives in Annapolis, Md., with his wife, Christine, and they are awaiting the birth of their second grandchild later this year.

His last official day is June 1, but he said he will spend a few weeks helping Lierman acclimate to the office. Cable said he would not have considered leaving until Hoyer had a top-notch replacement lined up. The two men started discussing the matter at the Democratic Caucus retreat earlier this year, and Cable said Lierman “was at the top of a short list.”

Cable started his Hill career in 1966 in the office of then-Rep. Clement Zablocki (D-Wis.). He spent the next decade climbing the ranks to become staff director and counsel at the House Administration Committee before leaving the Hill to serve as a deputy assistant in President Jimmy Carter’s legislative affairs office.

He later spent four years as a partner at Williams & Jensen before joining Timmons & Co. — now considered one of the most prestigious lobbying firms in Washington, D.C. —for 17 years.

Cable returned to Capitol Hill in 2001, serving short stints in the offices of the Secretary of the Senate, the House Administration Committee and the House Chief Administrative Officer before joining Hoyer’s office as chief of staff in 2006.

Cable ends his career with Hoyer on a high note, as he was part of the team that helped secure Hoyer’s victory in the leadership race against Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) in November. Hoyer prevailed in a decisive 149-86 vote.

Like Lierman, Cable has known Hoyer for more than two decades, and Hoyer called him a “very close friend.”

Cable shared the sentiment but said it’s time to move on.

“Sure I’m going to miss it, but I don’t have any second thoughts,” he said.