Maryland gubernatorial candidate Kevin Kamenetz (D) plans to announce Thursday that he has selected Valerie Ervin, a grass-roots activist and former Montgomery County Council member, as his choice for lieutenant governor.
Ervin became the first African American woman elected to the Montgomery County Council in 2006. She resigned in 2013 to become the executive director of the Center for Working Families, the education and issue advocacy arm of the Working Families Party.
“She can govern from Day 1,” said Kamenetz, who called Ervin “a fighter for progressive change, and a tireless advocate for education.”
Ervin, a former labor organizer, said she has belonged to a union since she was 16. She is widely known among progressive leaders and in the heavily Democratic Washington suburbs, an area where Kamenetz — currently Baltimore County executive — needs to raise his profile. Ervin said she is leaving her current job, as a senior adviser to the Working Families Party, to join Kamenetz’s ticket.
Before taking a position with the Center for Working Families, a New York-based nonprofit group that promotes economic and social justice for low-income families, Ervin considered a run for Montgomery County executive.
When then-U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen launched his Senate campaign in 2015, Ervin decided to run for his congressional seat. But she dropped out of the race months later because she couldn’t raise enough money to compete in the costly race.
“She brings a wealth of experience that is different from my own,” Kamenetz said. “As an African American, as a woman, as a mother and grandmother and as someone who hails from Montgomery County, [the selection] is a great balance and complements many of the skill sets I already have.”
In her role with the Working Families Party, Ervin has taken Democratic leaders to task over workers’ rights issues, including paid sick leave and raising the minimum wage.
Ervin said she and Kamenetz share a commitment to improving public education and “are very similar people. He’s a fighter for Baltimore and Baltimore County and I’m a fighter for Montgomery County and Maryland.”
“We agree on many policies, especially those that impact our children,” she said.
Ervin was elected to the Montgomery County Board of Education in 2004. She was encouraged to run after becoming an education advocate and founding the Montgomery County Education Forum and Blacks United for Excellence in Education.
Gubernatorial candidates have until Feb. 27, the filing deadline, to name their running mates. Of the six Democrats who have announced their selections so far, five have chosen women. There are currently no women in Maryland’s congressional delegation or in top statewide elected posts.
Krishanti Vignarajah, the only woman running for governor, has not revealed her running mate.
The winners of the June 26 Democratic primary will face Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R) in November’s general election.