Valerie Ervin, the former Montgomery County Councilwoman, will run for governor, replacing her deceased running mate Kevin Kamenetz at the top of a Democratic ticket.
Ervin’s website went live just before 2 p.m., announcing her candidacy.
“I’m announcing a run for governor of Maryland because I truly believe in the vision of Kevin and I’s campaign, and I want to take it forward. This campaign is about the future of Maryland,” Ervin said in a statement. “I believe in a Maryland where working families come before corporate profits, where we help every kid achieve their full potential and we all can thrive regardless of where we were born, the color of our skin or the size of our bank account.”
Ervin joins Krishanti Vignarajah as the only two women atop a ticket in a crowded Democratic primary race for governor.
In her statement, Ervin announced she had selected Marisol Johnson as her running mate. Johnson is a former member of the Baltimore County School board, mother of four, business owner and immigrant from El Salvador.
Ervin described Johnson as having “truly lived the American Dream the team envisions for all Marylanders.”
Ervin, the running mate for former gubernatorial candidate Kamenetz, had until 5 p.m. Thursday to decide if she would continue to run, possibly at the top of the ticket after Kamenetz’s unexpected death.
Ervin said in her statement she will file in Annapolis before the deadline today.
Ervin’s statement struck a more progressive tone than that of Kamenetz, who hailed from a county known for its more moderate brand of politics.
Ervin called for universal child care and pre-kindergarten classes for all Maryland families and a 100 percent renewable energy goal that includes clean public transportation.
Speculation about Ervin’s intentions reached a frenetic pace as the clock ticked down to the 5 p.m. deadline.
Ervin enters the race one week after her running mate, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, died suddenly of cardiac arrest.
Kamenetz had been running second behind Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III in many publicly released polls.
She now finds herself atop the ticket faced with introducing herself to voters in other areas of the state outside of her home jurisdiction of Montgomery County and competing with more than a half-dozen other campaigns in the Democratic primary.
Also of concern will be finding the money to fund her campaign.
“She has the ability to make the case for her campaign but does she have the ability to make people hear her make that case and that’s a funding issue,” said Mileah Kromer, a political science professor at Goucher College.
Ervin has about $50,000 in her account, according to her most recent report filed with the Maryland State Board of Elections earlier this year.
A joint account with Kamenetz had $1,000 when it was formed this year.
Kamenetz’s account reported $2 million as of the last report in January. He also committed to about $1 million in television ads before the June 26 primary.
Ervin’s access to that money and those ads is questionable.
Maryland law considers each of the running mates individual candidates. That separation has allowed for situations in which lieutenant governor candidates could fund raise while their running mates were barred from doing so because of the General Assembly session, as happened with Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and his gubernatorial running mate Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.
The money in the individual accounts resides with that individual candidate.
Only the money in the joint slate account would be directly accessible to Ervin, according to Jared DeMarinis, director of candidacy and campaign finance for the Maryland State Board of Elections.
“All expenditures must relate to or promote a candidate,” DeMarinis said. “If the candidate is dead, then there is no candidacy to promote.”
Further complicating matters is the fate of those ad buys reserved by Kamenetz.
State law requires any expenditure made by a campaign be in the furtherance of a candidate and their candidacy. Ads paid for by Kamenetz’s individual account could be off limits to Ervin, meaning she may not simply re-cut the ads to promote her campaign, DeMarinis said.
John T. Willis, a former secretary of state under Gov. Parris N. Glendening and an adviser to Democrats around the state, said the question about the ads could potentially be fodder for a court case.
“I could see where a lawyer could make a case,” Willis said.
Some signs pointing to Ervin’s decision surfaced Thursday morning, including a website, valerieformaryland.com. The website was registered anonymously — common in politics — on May 16.
Additionally, Molly Haigh’s involvement was another signal of Ervin’s intentions.
Haigh works for Megaphone Strategies, a public relations and strategic consultant firm. The firm also employs Nina Smith, a former spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O’Malley who currently works for Donna Edwards, the former Democratic congresswoman who is running for Prince George’s County Executive.
Haigh previously worked with Ervin at Working Families and confirmed she recently joined the gubernatorial candidate.
Edwards and Ervin are longtime friends. Earlier this week, Edwards encouraged her friend to run for governor in a statement and on Twitter.