On their first day on the campaign trail together, Democratic gubernatorial contender Kevin B. Kamenetz and his just-announced running mate, Valerie Ervin, played up their similarities, describing themselves as tell-it-like-it-is policy wonks with a passion for closing the achievement gaps in Maryland’s schools.
“Valerie is the right pick because — number one — she can govern,” Kamenetz said over coffee Thursday outside a Silver Spring cafe. “She has experience advocating for children and working families. And [she] adds a good perspective for me in helping to make good decisions on behalf of all Maryland citizens.”
Ervin, the first African-American woman to serve on the Montgomery County Council, left her post as senior adviser to the Working Families Party, a progressive group, to run for lieutenant governor with Kamenetz, who is wrapping up his second term as Baltimore County executive.
“She’s a bubbly personality,” Kamenetz said. “We’re both tell-it-like-is people and I think we share a passion for serving. I envision a great partnership. I’m thrilled.”
“I think we’re more alike than not,” Ervin said. “And the places where we’re not alike, I think it’s good to have a person who you can actually learn something from.”
“I think when you look at the two of us, we’re Maryland.”
Ervin said she was “following” the gubernatorial race but — despite frequent rumors about her being a potential candidate for lieutenant governor — was surprised when Kamenetz’s team reached out to her. Her decision to join the ticket flowed from his work in education — building 90 schools without raising taxes and closing the achievement gaps in the classroom.
“I was just a mom who was really concerned about all of Montgomery County’s children,” Ervin said, recalling the start of her own political career, seeking and winning a seat on the board of education in 2004. Kamenetz has “a great record bridging the gap that there was between graduation rates between white and black students. It doesn’t exist anymore,” she said.
In addition to bringing diversity — gender, racial and geographic — to the ticket, Ervin may open doors to the progressive voters considered most likely to cast ballots in Democratic primaries. In addition to her stint with Working Families, Ervin has held a variety of posts in the labor movement.
Former congresswoman Donna Edwards (D), a candidate for Prince George’s County executive, and a lifelong friend of Ervin’s, tweeted: “Congrats to@ValerieErvin friends since childhood. Guessing our Dads are looking down now chillin’ w Gil-Scott Heron in the background. Go girl!”
But not everyone is on board. While Kamenetz and his new running mate were meeting voters in Silver Spring, just a short walk from Ervin’s home, Dyana Forester issued a statement on behalf of the Maryland Working Families Party touting the group’s “enthusiastic” endorsement of another candidate for governor, former NAACP president Benjamin L. Jealous.
“Valerie Ervin’s decision to accept a spot on the Kevin Kamenetz ticket will not affect our commitment to helping Ben win,” the statement said, adding, “We wish Valerie well.”
Asked for his reaction, Kamenetz said, “We’re enthused that they’re nervous about it.”