Krishanti O’Mara Vignarajah, a former adviser to Michelle Obama who unsuccessfully ran for governor in Maryland last year, will be the next president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
Vignarajah, whose parents fled civil war in Sri Lanka and arrived in the United States when she was 9 months old, said she is honored to lead an organization dedicated to supporting immigrants and refugees.
“At a time when too many refugees and asylum seekers are unsure whether they will be welcome in America, I am committed to ensuring that all immigrants seeking a better life in America are afforded the same opportunities as my families received to pursue their dreams,” she said in a statement.
Board Chair Michael Rinehart said Baltimore-based LIRS conducted a nationwide search and chose Vignarajah because it believes she will have both a passion for the work and “the business acumen to drive the organization in a positive direction.”
Vignarajah finished fourth in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in June. Her candidacy attracted some national attention because she would have been the first woman, immigrant or person of color to be elected governor in the state. She also faced questions about her eligibility because she was registered to vote in Washington as well as Maryland for several years, and listed the District as her legal residence as recently as 2016.
Vignarajah, who graduated from Baltimore County public schools, worked briefly in business and law before becoming an adviser in the State Department and then to Obama.
She did not use the last name of her husband, Collin O’Mara, during the gubernatorial campaign but said she has now incorporated O’Mara as part of her name.