Vignarajah Drops Legal Effort To Affirm Eligibility To Run for Governor

Vignarajah Drops Legal Effort To Affirm Eligibility To Run for Governor

Lawsuit was dismissed day before a hearing was scheduled to take place

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Krishanti Vignarajah

Campaign website screenshot

Updated – 4:31 p.m. – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Krishanti Vignarajah dropped a lawsuit she filed against Gov. Larry Hogan’s campaign and the state Board of Elections in which she was asking a judge to affirm her eligibility to run for governor.

Attorneys for Vignarajah were scheduled to appear at a hearing Tuesday afternoon in Annapolis centered on a motion from the state to dismiss the case, but instead Vignarajah dropped the lawsuit on Monday, according to online court records.

Court records now list the case as “closed.”

Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for the state’s Attorney General’s Office, said in an email Tuesday that Vignarajah, “voluntarily dismissed the case.”

She said the State’s Attorney General’s Office did not know why she decided to drop the case.

"As we detailed in her pleading, Krish is absolutely eligible to run and serve as Governor," Andrew Herman, an attorney who represented Vignarajah in the case said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. "In light of the defendants' concessions, we determined that no further litigation is necessary at this time."

Herman would not detail the concessions reportedly made by the defendants in the case and when asked for additional details he responded in an email, "I'm not authorized to say anything else."

Vignarajah filed the case in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in October, asking a judge to rule whether she has a right to appear on the ballot for the state’s June 26 primary election.

The question of Vignarajah’s eligibility was raised after Bethesda Beat reported Vignarajah, a Gaithersburg resident who previously worked as an aide to Michelle Obama, had voted multiple times in Washington, D.C., while also registered to vote in Maryland. She most recently cast votes in D.C. in 2014, which an election law attorney said could potentially make her ineligible to run for governor in Maryland.

The state constitution requires a candidate for governor to have lived and been registered to vote in the state for at least five years leading up to the election.

Vignarajah had indicated in her initial complaint that she was suing the state Board of Elections and the governor’s campaign because she believed members of the campaign team and Mary Wagner, the board’s director of voter registration, had questioned her eligibility to run for governor.

State attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case in November. They wrote in their filing that it is impossible for anyone to challenge Vignarajah’s qualifications to run, as she has alleged, because she has not formally filed to run for governor.

Vignarajah has not filed her candidacy with the Board of Elections. She must first name a lieutenant governor running mate to do so. The filing deadline is Feb. 27.

None of the other leading Democratic contenders—Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, state Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Kensington), former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, Baltimore Attorney James Shea and tech entrepreneur Alec Ross—have formally filed with the board to run for governor, according to the board’s website. Only Jealous has announced a running mate—former Maryland Democratic Party Chair Susan Turnbull.

Vignarajah has maintained that despite the votes she cast in D.C.—and the fact that she used a D.C. address to register to vote in the city—she is eligible to run for governor because her Maryland voter registration has remained active since 2006.

She reported raising $431,000 since launching her campaign in September, which included a personal loan of $100,000. The Washington Post reported most of her contributions came from out of state donors and included money from Indian Americans and celebrities including Ashley Judd and Meryl Streep.

In her lawsuit, Vignarajah alleged that statements by Wagner and Hogan’s campaign have “explicitly and repeatedly cast doubt on [her] eligibility to run for governor … ” while she seeks support from “voters, volunteers, and donors.”

In a Gonzales Research poll released earlier this month, Vignarajah received about 2 percent of support from likely Democratic voters who participated in the poll. That put her behind Baker, who garnered 24 percent, Kamenetz and Jealous, who both had 14 percent and Madaleno, who stood at 5 percent. Shea and Ross both drew about 1 percent of support in the poll. About 33 percent of respondents said they were undecided.

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