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Government & Politics

Seeking Inroads to D.C. Suburbs, Kamenetz Turns to Ervin

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Kevin B. Kamenetz has tapped former Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin to be his running mate, Maryland Matters has confirmed.


Ervin held the District 5 seat on the council, covering the liberal Democratic strongholds of Silver Spring and Takoma Park, from 2006 until 2014. She stepped down a year before the end of her second term to become the executive director of the Center for Working Families, the issue advocacy arm of the Working Families Party.


Valerie Ervin


Working Families, where Ervin now works as a senior adviser, advocates on behalf of women’s rights, the environment, workers, racial justice and a host of other progressive causes. Ervin also spent years working in the labor movement.


“She’s entrenched in the progressive activist community,” said Mileah Kromer, a political science professor at Goucher College. Kamenetz “brings practical governing experience from a purple county. And she, along with serving in elective office, has grass-roots activist credentials he doesn’t have. So that’s a nice balance for him.”


Kamenetz is finishing his second term as Baltimore County executive.  He served four terms on the County Council.


Before being elected to the council, Ervin also spent two years on the Montgomery County Board of Education while simultaneously serving as an aide to County Councilman George L. Leventhal (D).

Kromer recalled a panel discussion that Ervin took part in on campus a couple years ago called “Training Ms. President.”


“She was a fan favorite,” she said. “She has a really warm personality, she’s compelling, and when she talks, she commands the room. She has natural political abilities.”


In selecting Ervin, Kamenetz becomes the fifth male Democrat in the race for governor to balance his ticket with a woman. Most of the women running mates also bring racial and geographic balance, testimony to the perceived need to have a diverse ticket in a state like Maryland.


Of the seven Democrats running for governor, only former Obama administration official Krishanti Vignarajah has yet to name a running mate. She must do so by 9 p.m. Tuesday to earn a spot on the primary ballot.


In 2015, Ervin launched a bid for the congressional seat being vacated by then-Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D), but she dropped out shortly thereafter, saying she had failed to raise enough money to compete “on a level playing field.”


In contrast to much of the Maryland Democratic establishment, she supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president in 2016, and worked closely on the campaign with former NAACP president Benjamin L. Jealous – now a competitor of Kamenetz’s in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.


Ervin served as president of the county council in 2011, and a former colleague said it was one of the “toughest budgets” in recent memory. “It was not easy,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to be more candid. “The council made tough decisions that restored soundness and balance over the long term. Everybody lost friends, she among them.”


“She roiled the council” during her tenure, and “angered a lot of people who had been her allies,” the former colleague said. “Is it good for Montgomery County or for Kevin Kamenetz? Time will tell.”


Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.


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Seeking Inroads to D.C. Suburbs, Kamenetz Turns to Ervin