Surrounded by family members, David Craig spoke during a campaign stop this month in Dundalk. (Photo by Mark Gail/For The Washington Post)

Harford County Executive David R. Craig, a leading Republican contender for Maryland governor next year, named as his campaign manager Tuesday a former top aide to Michael S. Steele, a potential rival.

Paul D. Ellington, a veteran GOP operative who served as Steele’s chief of staff while he was lieutenant governor of Maryland, will oversee the “strategic and operational details” of Craig’s campaign, Craig announced.

Steele has said in recent weeks that he, too, is looking at joining the 2014 Republican primary for governor of Maryland. Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, plans to make an announcement later this year about whether he will seek to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).

Craig launched his bid for governor two weeks ago, with a three-day tour of the state. Ellington helped coordinate the rollout but only assumed the title of campaign manager Tuesday, according to the Craig campaign.

“Maryland needs a proven leader and Maryland Republicans need a winner,” Ellington said in a statement. “That is why I am supporting David Craig for governor. More than any other potential or declared candidate, David Craig has successfully led and managed large organizations.”

Craig also announced Tuesday that Jim Pettit would be his communications director. Pettit previously worked for Change Maryland, the grass-roots organization led by Larry Hogan, who is another potential 2014 Republican candidate for governor.

Prior to becoming Steele’s chief of staff in 2003, Ellington worked as executive director of the Maryland Republican Party.

After Steele left office, Ellington went with him to GOPAC, a Washington-based organization that seeks to train Republican leaders around the country. More recently, he has led State and Local Advisors, a political and business consulting firm.