WOODLAWN, Md. — Democrat Krishanti Vignarajah, a former policy director for first lady Michelle Obama, officially launched her campaign for governor Tuesday at the apartment complex outside Baltimore where she lived with her parents after the family fled Sri Lanka decades ago.
"Before anything else, I was an immigrant and proud daughter of schoolteachers," she told an audience of about three dozen, including her husband, National Wildlife Federation chief executive Collin O'Mara, and their infant daughter.
She said as governor she would push for mandatory paid family leave for new mothers and fathers and for universal prekindergarten and make education her "top priority."
Vignarajah, 37, has said she is driven to run partly by the retirement early this year of U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), which left all statewide elected offices in Maryland filled by men for the first time in many years.
A graduate of Yale University and Yale Law School, Vignarajah lives in Gaithersburg and worked for Michelle Obama for a little more than two years after a stint as a senior adviser at the State Department. She previously worked at a New York-based consulting firm and a Chicago-based law firm and has taught at Georgetown University.
Vignarajah, who was nine months old when her family immigrated to the United States with green cards, announced last month that she would join the packed field of Democrats vying to challenge the popular incumbent, Gov. Larry Hogan (R), in 2018.
Other declared candidates include Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, former NAACP president Ben Jealous, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), entrepreneur Alec Ross and Baltimore lawyer and former University System of Maryland Board of Regents chair James L. Shea. Policy consultant Maya Rockeymoore is also weighing a bid.
"They say no man can beat Governor Hogan," she said during her announcement. "Well, I'm no man."
Shortly after Vignarajah said she would run, one of her potential rivals, on the condition of anonymity, raised questions to news organizations including The Washington Post about her voter registration. A review of records by The Post showed she was registered in both Maryland and the District in recent years, had lived in both places, and voted in the District from 2010 to 2014 but in Maryland in 2016.
Maryland law requires gubernatorial candidates to have lived and been registered to vote in the state for five years immediately preceding the election. D.C. law prohibits people from registering to vote when they are registered elsewhere.
The Maryland State Board of Elections has asked Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) to weigh in on whether a person who registered in the state but later voted in another jurisdiction would be considered a registered Maryland voter.
Mary Wagner, voter-registration director for the elections board, said the attorney general's office is unlikely to provide an answer before Vignarajah files paperwork with the state to enter the race. The filing deadline for the June primary is Feb. 27.
Wagner said the board would have canceled Vignarajah's voter registration if D.C. officials had notified the state that she was also registered in the District.
Vignarajah did not take questions Tuesday and declined to comment on her eligibility for office.
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