By Bruce DePuyt
He started his search for a running mate last June, when he announced his candidacy for governor. But it wasn’t until relatively late in the process — during a lunch that almost didn’t happen — that gubernatorial hopeful Rushern L. Baker III (D) decided on Elizabeth M. Embry.
On Tuesday, the pair toured the state, starting in Baltimore City at their formal announcement. From there, they traveled to Annapolis, where they had lunch with reporters and campaign aides, and filed their candidacy papers. Then it was on to Rockville, in vote-rich Montgomery County, where they toured a facility for homeless people and met with housing advocates.
During the walk from Chick & Ruth’s to the Board of Elections, the county executive said Embry was suggested by someone he turned to for lieutenant governor suggestions he might not think of. The person sent background material on Embry, until this week chief of the criminal division in the state attorney general’s office and a 2016 candidate for mayor who hails from a prominent Baltimore family.
Although she finished a distant third in the Democratic mayoral primary, Baker was impressed nonetheless. “Her education plan just caught my attention,” he said. “Because it looked like how I think about education — having the executive and the superintendent of schools married together, being willing to tie your career to making education better.”
In 2013, Baker persuaded the General Assembly to give him the power to hire and fire the Prince George’s County’s schools CEO and to appoint three members of the school board, including the chairman.
Baker’s LG short list on the day he first met Embry included people from Montgomery County, Baltimore County and the city, but he decided on her almost instantly.
“We met [for lunch],” he recalled. “Five minutes into the conversation, I was like, ‘This is the person. I don’t know if she’ll do it, but she’s absolutely the best person.’ And the reason [was], I wanted to vote for her.”
That lunch initially fell victim to a miscommunication among staff, but got resurrected as Baker’s self-imposed deadline for a selection, Jan. 1, loomed.
Embry, 40, took a leave from her post in the AG’s office to run for mayor, but she turned in her formal resignation this week in order to campaign full time. She told reporters in Annapolis that her office frequently handles “sensitive” cases and that it simply made sense to have a clean break.
Her former boss, Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D), is a Baker supporter.
Dodging sidewalk grates in stylish heels on the walk to the elections board, Embry called her running mate “the real deal.”
“His taking ownership of the school system” made her “a big fan,” she said. “So when he reached out, I was really honored and excited to talk to him. To say this was not on my radar is really understating it.”
Pressed on whether she intends to adopt the classic “attack dog” posture often associated with candidates for lieutenant governor and vice president, Embry dodged a bit more, saying, “I’m a litigator and a prosecutor, so I’m very comfortable making the case for why Rushern Baker is the best candidate for Maryland, and I think there’s plenty to talk about there.”
After a reporter sheepishly explained why he got Embry’s age wrong in an article, Baker and Embry discovered something they had not realized – that she and Christa Beverly, the executive’s wife, share a birthday, March 2.