Former Montgomery County Council member Valerie Ervin told supporters Thursday she will no longer run for the open 8th District congressional seat.
In an email, Ervin said she hasn’t been able to raise enough money “to compete on a level playing field” for the highly sought-after seat being vacated by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who’s running for U.S. Senate.
“In politics today, fundraising is the sign of a campaign’s viability. Not your ideas about how to serve your constituents, not your track record of service, not even the groundswell of grassroots support—but your ability to raise money,” Ervin wrote. “And unfortunately, I just haven’t been able to raise enough.”
Ervin announced her long-rumored campaign July 1.
According to second-quarter campaign finance reports unveiled just a few weeks later, competitors for the Democratic nomination Kathleen Matthews and State Sen. Jamie Raskin had already raised $500,000 and $524,000, respectively.
State Del. Kumar Barve, another Democratic primary candidate, reported raising $225,000 in the second quarter.
Her withdrawal comes less than two weeks before the Sept. 30 deadline for reporting third-quarter fundraising results to the Federal Election Commission—an indication that her fundraising efforts were not going well in a contest where many estimate a successful campaign could cost at least $1 million, and perhaps as much as $3 million to $4 million. This would have been Ervin’s first fundraising report since entering the contest.
Ervin didn’t file a second-quarter fundraising report since she established her official campaign committee after the June 30 deadline.
“Right now in Maryland, we see male candidates for office routinely raising more money than the women in those races,” Ervin wrote to supporters. “We can and must continue to recruit and train more women and people of color to run for office. It’s the only way we can create an inclusive democracy that speaks to the needs of all citizens.”
Ervin resigned a year before the end of her second council term after openly aspiring to run for county executive in 2014. But her path was blocked by County Executive Ike Leggett’s decision to seek a third term. Since leaving the council, Ervin has been executive director of the Center for Working Families, an arm of the Working Families Party. She has since become the executive director of a related group called the National Participatory Democracy Project.
“Unfortunately, our current political system doesn’t make much room for everyday Americans like me—especially women, people of color, and the non-wealthy—to compete on a level playing field,” Ervin wrote.
Ervin’s status in the contest had been the subject of buzz among local Democratic insiders in recent weeks. She had been largely invisible on the campaign trail since formally announcing her candidacy, and was noticeably absent from a Labor Day parade in Kensington last week at which the other candidates in the race made appearances.
There had been speculation that Ervin, after leaving the County Council, would focus on a possible run for county executive in 2018. However, after Van Hollen announced in early March that he would seek to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Ervin quickly sent signals that she would run for his seat in Congress.
It remains unclear whether other candidates might benefit from Ervin’s withdrawal. Her departure leaves six announced candidates and reduces the number of women in the contest, perhaps boosting the two remaining female candidates—Matthews and Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez of Chevy Chase. It also will leave former Obama administration official Will Jawando as the only black candidate. By the same token, Ervin shared a Silver Spring-Takoma Park political base with Raskin of Takoma Park, and her candidacy might have drawn some votes from Raskin.