Baltimore Sun: Kevin Kamenetz picks former Montgomery County councilwoman as running mate

Feb. 22 2018

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has selected former Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin as his running mate in the race for governor, adding a progressive voice from the Washington suburbs to his effort to win the Democratic nomination.

Ervin was the first African-American woman to serve on the Montgomery County Council and most recently worked as an adviser to a national nonprofit that promotes causes for working class families.

Kamenetz said Ervin, 61, will be a good political partner because she’s a skilled leader.

“I know that she can govern on day one, and importantly, she brings a wealth of experience that’s different from my own,” Kamenetz said in an interview.

Ervin said it was an easy decision to join Kamenetz’s campaign. The two have known each other for years through local government circles.

“I’ve watched his rise from the Baltimore County Council to being one of the best county executives in the state,” she said.

Ervin said she admires Kamenetz’s efforts to renovate and replace aging public schools in Baltimore County while not raising tax rates.

Ervin got her start in politics as an education advocate, opposing a “tracking” system in Montgomery County schools that she said often left African-American students without access to gifted and talented classes.

The Silver Spring resident became a member of Montgomery County’s Board of Education, serving two years before winning election to the Montgomery County Council, where she served two terms until 2014.

She’s held positions at a variety of labor organizations and most recently worked as a senior adviser to Working Families, a New York City-based organization that promotes progressive causes such as minimum-wage increases and paid sick days and fought against “school privatization schemes.” The group’s Maryland chapter was instrumental in convincing state lawmakers to approve legislation last year requiring many businesses to provide paid sick leave for employees.

Ervin resigned from Working Families to join Kamenetz’s gubernatorial ticket.

After leaving the Montgomery County Council in 2014, Ervin pursued a short-lived campaign for Congressthat she abandoned when she said it became clear she couldn’t raise enough money to be competitive.

The selection of Ervin as a running mate brings demographic, geographic and political diversity to Kamenetz’s ticket.

Melissa Deckman, chairwoman of the political science department at Washington College, said Ervin represents a “diversity trifecta” for Kamenetz.

“She’s from a populous area of the state that’s going to help determine who the next nominee is. She’s also a female and a person of color,” said Deckman, who has studied the roles of women in politics.

Ervin also has established progressive credentials, with a history of working on labor issues and fighting to increase the minimum wage in Montgomery County. And she was a delegate for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in 2016. That will appeal to primary voters, who tend to skew more progressive, Deckman said.

Ervin also may help Kamenetz, 60, as a strong and energetic campaigner, Deckman said.

Deckman helps run a program called Training Ms. President, a bipartisan program that encourages young women to run for public office. When Ervin spoke at a Training Ms. President event, she came across as smart, effective and savvy, Deckman said.

“I think she’s really dynamic and interesting,” she said.

Kamenetz clearly agrees. He and Ervin have similar experiences with the “nuts and bolts” of governing, but they have different strengths that complement each other, the county executive said.

“I know the Baltimore region very well, and Valerie knows the Washington region very well. Valerie is a mother of two and a grandmother of four, obviously a female and an African-American,” said Kamenetz, who is white. “She brings a wealth of experiences that I don’t have that will allow her to be a great partner with me as we make decisions and govern for all of Maryland’s residents.”

Kamenetz is the latest candidate recognized by the Democratic Party to announce a running mate in advance of Tuesday’s deadline to file candidacy paperwork.

The other Democratic gubernatorial tickets are: Former NAACP President Ben Jealous and former state party leader Susan TurnbullPrince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and Baltimore lawyer Elizabeth EmbryBaltimore lawyer Jim Shea and Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scottauthor and tech entrepreneur Alec Ross and brewery owner Julie Veratti; and state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. and Luwanda Jenkins, a former aide to Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Only Krish Vignarajah, a former policy advisor to Michelle Obama, has not yet announced a running mate.

Perennial candidate Ralph Jaffe filed to run with his sister, Freda Jaffe, as his running mate.

They’re all vying for a chance to run against Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who has not yet launched his re-election campaign. According to the latest Goucher Poll released this week, Hogan has an approval rating of 61 percent and 47 percent of respondents said they would vote for him for re-election.

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