LANGLEY PARK — Valerie Ervin ended her brief campaign for governor Wednesday by endorsing Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker and immediately attacking his main opponent.
Ervin, in a news conference near the Takoma-Langley Transit Center and site of the soon-to-be built Purple Line, ended her campaign on the eve of the state’s early primary voting and praised Baker as an honest campaigner. At the same time, she went on the offensive, strongly criticizing Ben Jealous, the former national NAACP president.
“Jealous is showing voters that he is running a campaign exactly the way he would govern the state and that is a tremendous problem for Marylanders,” Ervin told reporters.
Baker is one of eight remaining Democrats in the primary, vying to challenge Republican incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan in November. Other candidates are Jealous; Ralph Jaffe, a teacher and perennial candidate; James Jones of Baltimore City; Montgomery County state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr.; technology policy expert and senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University and former Hillary Clinton aide Alec Ross; Jim Shea, the former chair of Venable LLP and Democratic party activist and donor; and former Michelle Obama aide Krishanti Vignarajah.
Among her criticisms are so-called super PACs that will spend money independently of the Jealous campaign in support of his candidacy.
“He likes to portray himself as the progressive champion for keeping money out of politics however we do now know that huge influxes of cash are coming into the state of Maryland on his behalf,” Ervin said. “We just want to see where that money is coming from and who is supporting it.
She also criticized Jealous for being from California.
“We have this person who claims he’s from Maryland but he’s actually from California so that’s ok, carpetbaggers are fine, but we are the real deal,” she said.
She called Baker” “a stalwart son of Maryland and has been working in the vineyards, as my grandmother used to say, for many many years.”
Baker and Jealous have emerged as the frontrunners in three polls released in the last week.
Jealous, who has been registered to vote in the state since 2012, previously lived in California. His parents, two teachers from Baltimore City, moved to California because interracial marriage was, at the time, illegal in Maryland.
Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Jealous, immediately fired back.
“No amount of distortions about Ben’s record will change the fact that 99.99% of our contributions come from individuals, and we have the lowest average donation and more Maryland donors than any other campaign,” said Harris. “Valerie Ervin’s record so far in this race has been to either join the ticket of or endorse the two campaigns most heavily funded by corporate interests, including Rushern Baker who receives 40 percent of his funds from corporations. Her claims on this are about as credible as her lies about why she left the Working Families Party.”
Similarly, Harris offered a sharp response to Ervin’s “carpetbagger” comment and called Baker “desperate.”
“It’s ironic someone from New Mexico would allege another candidate is a carpetbagger, but what else would you expect from a person who lies about how and why they lost their job? Rushern Baker must be pretty desperate to want that kind of support,” said Harris.
Harris added that Jealous is following the law and not coordinating with independent expenditure organizations saying, “our expectation is that any group doing work on our behalf would abide by the law and hold firm to Ben’s values as a candidate.”
Ervin’s endorsement of Baker and her jabs at his top opponent — there are seven other Democrats in the 2018 primary — is the latest flare-up between the former Montgomery County councilwoman and Jealous. Ervin accused Jealous of having her fired as Maryland political director for the Working Families Party, which endorsed Jealous.
Ervin said she and Marisol Johnson, her running mate and former member of the Baltimore County Board of Education, would campaign for Baker during the early voting period, which begins June 14, and through the June 26 primary election.
Baker welcomed the pair to the campaign, adding that they would be a force in his administration should he win the nomination and go on to defeat Hogan in November.
“They’re going to keep pushing us,” said Baker. “They’re going to push as a team and push as an administration to be mindful.”
Ervin’s withdrawal ends her 26-day campaign, at least technically. She will still appear on the ballot as the lieutenant governor candidate for Kevin B. Kamenetz, who died unexpectedly of cardiac arrest on May 10.
Ervin declared her intent to take the spot at the top of the ticket later that month and tapped Johnson, a business owner and immigrant from El Salvador, as her running mate.
Kamenetz’s death posed significant challenges for Ervin who found herself without access to money raised by her running mate and linked to her former ticket on the state ballot.
Last week, Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge William C. Mulford II denied Ervin’s request for an order requiring the reprinting of millions of primary ballots or for the use of stickers that would place her name and that of her running mate on the ballot.
Mulford said an order to reprint or authorize the use of stickers to alter the ballot at that late date would create chaos.
Ervin, speaking after that hearing, said chaos could likely follow the election because the Ervin-Johnson ticket did not appear on the ballot.
“I know what the judge said,” Ervin said speaking on June 4. “You all heard him that he thought this would create some kind of chaos and pandemonium I think that we still have that to face. This is going to be a true test of our Democracy in the state of Maryland where we put voters interests first.”
She later hinted at the potential for a post-election appeal based on the results of the primary.
Ervin’s initial lawsuit helped keep her name in the media, but that attention didn’t appear to move her into contention. In a poll released Tuesday morning, Ervin had just 7 percent — fourth place behind Baker, Jealous, and Montgomery County state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. who had 25, 22.6 and 9 percent respectively.
“Our decision was based on the fact that we’ve only been in the race 26 days, number one,” Ervin said of her decision to end her campaign. “That we couldn’t get our names on the ballot, number two. And we knew that to win a statewide race you need at least a $1 million in the bank and that we did not have. I’ve been around elections for 25 years and I know what it looks like to be in a winning position, even the poll numbers showed that we were edging up and we were very happy about that, but we wanted to get behind the Baker-Embry team because we wanted to bring the message to the Democratic party that this is the ticket that best represents Maryland.”