Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has chosen former Montgomery County Council member Valerie Ervin as his lieutenant governor running mate in his bid for governor.
Ervin, a Democrat, was the first African-American woman to serve on the council. She was elected to two terms from Silver Spring-based District 5, first in 2006 and then in 2010.
She resigned from the council in 2013 to take the executive director position with the New York-based Center for Working Families, an advocacy arm of the nonprofit Working Families Party, a progressive group that pushes for minimum wage increases and workers’ rights.
She is leaving that position to join Kamenetz’s campaign, according to an announcement Thursday.
“Throughout her career, Valerie Ervin has been a fighter for progressive change, and a tireless advocate for education,” Kamenetz said in a statement. “Valerie’s combination of elected experience, community and policy leadership, and dedication to getting things done makes her the ideal partner in my campaign to become the ‘Education Governor’ that Maryland needs.”
Ervin, 61, said in a statement that she’s concerned for children in the state because of the policies being pushed by Republican President Donald Trump and Gov. Larry Hogan.
“I’m thrilled to join Kevin’s campaign to return Maryland’s schools to best in the nation,” Ervin said.
She served as a county Board of Education member from 2004 to 2006. She was also the chief of staff for council member George Leventhal, a position she left in 2006 to run for the council.
The Maryland Working Families Party issued a statement Thursday morning thanking Ervin for her work as staff leader in the national organization, but it maintained its support for Kamenetz’s Democratic primary competitor Ben Jealous, the former president of the NAACP.
“Our grassroots base is fired up for Ben because of his commitment to healthcare for all and a $15 minimum wage, and because he wants to invest in education, not mass incarceration,” the statement said. “We’re doubling down our work to help him win the primary. Indeed this race is a national priority for the [Working Families Party], as Ben Jealous is the sort of leader who Maryland, and America, needs. Valerie Ervin’s decision to accept a spot on the Kevin Kamenetz ticket will not affect our commitment to helping Ben win.”
Ervin ended a bid for the 8th District congressional seat in 2015 after just three months and said in a message to supporters that she wasn’t able to raise enough money “to compete on a level playing” field for the sought-after seat that was being vacated by then-Rep. Chris Van Hollen. Van Hollen was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016.
She expressed her dismay in the message that “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. And unfortunately, I just haven’t been able to raise enough.”
In stating why Kamenetz selected Ervin as his running mate, his campaign cited Ervin’s work to raise the minimum wage in Montgomery County, her efforts to create a food recovery network to feed the hungry and her support of broadening whistleblower protections for county employees who report fraud or abuse.
Ervin “rankled” her colleagues during the time on the council with her “blunt rhetoric and occasionally sharp elbows,” according to a 2013 Washington Post report about her resignation. During a council gathering where she announced she was stepping down, only three of the eight other council members were present—Nancy Navarro, Marc Elrich and Craig Rice,—according to the report.
With Ervin on the ticket, the Baltimore County executive now has a link to vote-rich Montgomery County, which has the second-most registered Democrats in the state, at about 377,000. Only Prince George’s County has more, with about 452,000 registered Democrats, according to state voter registration statistics.
Kamenetz has been polling behind Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor. In a Goucher College Poll released Thursday, about 12 percent of the 409 Democratic voters polled said they would vote for Kamenetz if the election were held today. Baker garnered about 19 percent of voters’ support, while 10 percent said they’d choose Jealous.
However, the race remains wide open, with about 47 percent of voters saying they “don’t know” which candidate they’ll vote for.
This week, Baker chose former Baltimore mayoral candidate and state’s attorney Elizabeth Embry as his running mate. In November, Jealous selected former Maryland Democratic Party leader Susan Turnbull to run with him.
In the Goucher poll, the other Democratic candidates in the race—state Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Kensington), Baltimore attorney James Shea, tech entrepreneur Alec Ross and former Michelle Obama official Krishanti Vignarajah—received 3 percent or less of support from voters who were polled.
Madaleno is running with former Martin O’Malley administration official Luwanda Jenkins, Ross selected Silver Spring brewery co-owner Julie Verratti as his running mate and Shea chose Baltimore City Council member Brandon Scott to run with him.
The Democrat who wins the June 26 primary will face Hogan in November. The governor remains popular in the state and has more than $9 million in campaign cash to fund his re-election campaign—more than all of the Democratic challengers combined, according to the January campaign finance reports.