John Hurson Credit: Provided photo

A former leader in the Maryland House of Delegates is preparing to run for a Montgomery County Council at-large seat.

John Hurson, a Democrat who was a District 18 member in the House from 1991 to 2005, confirmed with Bethesda Beat Tuesday that he plans to the enter the crowded 2018 race, in which more than two dozen candidates are vying for four seats.

“I am going to run for County Council,” Hurson, 63, said. “I’m trying to gear up the campaign and I plan on making a formal announcement after January 1.”

The state political news website Maryland Matters first reported on Hurson’s plans.

The at-large race has been particularly enticing for candidates partly because three of the four incumbent members—George Leventhal, Nancy Floreen and Marc Elrich—must step down due to term limits. Leventhal and Elrich are running for county executive.

Hurson, a Bethesda resident, works as the head of government affairs for the Personal Care Products Council, a trade association primarily for cosmetics companies. He started at the association after stepping down from his delegate position in 2005.

“I got a good opportunity to join an association and do lobbying,” Hurson said about the change in his career path. “It’s been good financially for me and interesting.”

In the House of Delegates, Hurson rose to be majority leader in 1995, then was appointed chair of the Environmental Matters Committee in 2001. He later served as chair of the Health and Government Operations Committee from 2003 until he stepped down in 2005.

He said he wants to run for County Council to re-enter public service. He sees the county as a wonderful place to live, but with challenges such as funding its growing school system and developing new transportation infrastructure.

“We got to be creative on transportation,” Hurson said. “We have to find pockets of money at the state and federal level to fund that creativity in transportation.”

He noted that he supports county plans to build a bus rapid transit network and believes his past legislative experience would be an asset on the council.

Of at least 28 Democratic candidates who have filed to run or announced a campaign for the four at-large seats, Hurson is part of a small group that has held public office before.

They include incumbent at-large Council member Hans Riemer, Del. Charles Barkley (D-Germantown), former district Council member Cherri Branson, former Takoma Park City Council member Seth Grimes and current school board member Rebecca Smondrowski.

Hurson said he will use the county’s new public financing system to fund his campaign. Other candidates have a head start in trying to meet the $20,000 threshold to receive public funds under the system, but Hurson believes he can get enough donations of $150 or less from county residents to qualify.

Part of his former political network remains intact.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve got all the troops I need, but I’ve got enough,” Hurson said.

Over the past decade, there’s also been a significant change in his personal life. Hurson came out as gay to his family about two years ago. He described the experience of informing his wife and two adult kids as “the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

He said he’s in a relationship with a man who is planning to move to the Washington, D.C., area.

“I’m gay, I’m openly gay, but I’m not running as a gay candidate,” Hurson said.