Valerie Ervin running for Md. governor after death of running mate, Kevin Kamenetz

WASHINGTON — Valerie Ervin announced Thursday she is running for Maryland governor after the death last week of her running mate, former Baltimore County executive Kevin Kamenetz.

Ervin had until 5 p.m. Thursday to file her candidacy with the state elections office. Kamenetz died of a heart attack May 10 just a few hours after a candidate’s forum at Bowie State University.

“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,” Ervin said in a statement. “This campaign is about the future of Maryland.”

Ervin, a former Montgomery County Council member who was running as lieutenant governor on the ticket with Kamenetz, announced Marisol Johnson, a former Baltimore County School Board member, as her running mate.

In an interview with WTOP, Ervin said she made her decision after consulting with close friends and supporters. She said she’s running to finish the race Kamenetz started.

“We just felt like we were going to win this thing,” Ervin said. “The polls were starting to open for us and we felt like this was our opportunity. And I can imagine, if the shoe was on the other foot, what Kevin would do — and he would want to finish the race.”

She likened the campaign to her days in high school running the 4 x 4 relay in track.

“On the last leg, you run the fastest, and I feel like the baton was handed to me and I’m running the last leg,” she said. “And so we’re going to run hard.”

Kamenetz’s death stunned members of Maryland’s political establishment and jolted the crowded field of Democratic candidates seeking their party’s nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in the fall.

The primary is June 26; early voting begins June 14.

In recent polling, Kamenetz had been running consistently in second or third against the eight other Democratic candidates in the race and had stockpiled the most money in fundraising. It’s unclear if Ervin will be able to access the war chest of campaign funds. Ervin said she is getting legal advice on the situation and also plans to continue raising “a lot of money.”

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, who has led in the polls, issued a statement welcoming Ervin’s “voice to the discussion on how to move Maryland forward as a gubernatorial candidate. We look forward to a positive and productive exchange.”

In her statement, Ervin said her platform includes improving and make debt-free all public education, providing universal child care and prekindergarten for all families in the state, and investing in renewable energy.

If elected, Ervin would be the first female governor in Maryland history and the first black female governor in the U.S.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. 

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