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Aruna Miller’s husband bought her Wes Moore’s book, “The Other Wes Moore,” for her birthday this year. She devoured it one night.
“I completely OD’d on Wes Moore,” Miller recalled in an interview Wednesday.
One month later, Moore and Miller are teaming up in the gubernatorial race.
Moore, the author and former foundation CEO who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, has selected Miller, a former state delegate from Montgomery County, to be his running mate.
Moore said Miller meets all his criteria for an ideal candidate for lieutenant governor.
“I am ecstatic and I am so humbled,” he said. “Aruna is someone I have long admired. She is a principled and a very seasoned legislator and executive. She has had a chance to work in both the legislative and executive branches. And she’s fought for families.”
Moore, a novice political candidate, said Miller would be “a true partner on this journey” and called her “a brilliant public servant.”
Miller, 57, is a seasoned campaigner who has both political and policy chops.
She served two terms in the House of Delegates, representing a district that included the Potomac area and points north. She spent four years on the House Ways and Means Committee and four years on the Appropriations Committee, working issues like paid family leave, transportation policy, domestic violence, and STEM education, among many others.
And she provides a balance to Moore in both obvious and subtle ways.
While Moore has worked with government in his role as a social entrepreneur and advocate, Miller has a long career in government, from her eight years as a state lawmaker to her experience as an engineer, planner and transportation official in Montgomery County and other jurisdictions.
Moore, who has made his from-the-bootstraps biography an essential part of his campaign, said he was impressed by Miller’s personal story as an immigrant — she came to the U.S. from India with her family when she was 8 years old — who rose to the highest levels of government.
“I have found someone who is a loving mom who has raised three remarkable young women here in Maryland and someone whose own immigration story has inspired her to a life of public service,” Moore said. “This is someone who I just truly admire.”
There is also a geographical balance between Moore, who is the only Democratic candidate for governor from the Baltimore area, and Miller. But Moore said he planned to deploy Miller across the state.
Beyond winning her two legislative campaigns in District 15, Miller has also been through the rigors of a congressional campaign and built a solid fundraising network along the way. She was the runner-up in the Democratic primary for Congress in the 6th District in 2018, finishing 9 points behind the victor, now-Rep. David J. Trone, who built his name ID by spending tens of millions of dollars of his own money on two successive congressional races.
Miller raised about $1.47 million for the 2018 race, and beat Trone in Montgomery County. Miller was gearing up to run for Congress again this cycle if Trone had decided to run for governor, and banked over $250,000 for her fledgling congressional run. But she essentially suspended that effort when Trone announced he was seeking reelection.
Miller instead will open a new state fundraising account for her lieutenant governor campaign — and will be able to tap into her own list of supporters to supplement the fundraising of Moore’s campaign, which has been raising money aggressively.
“I certainly never planned to be a lieutenant governor,” Miller said. “This was certainly not on the horizon for Aruna Miller at all. Until I met Wes Moore. Everybody told me, ‘You’ve got to meet Wes Moore,’ and I was like, ‘oh, OK, I’ll meet Wes Moore.’ Not only did he have me at hello, but by the end of our first conversation, I said to myself, ‘This guy is the future of Maryland. He’s going to be our next governor.’”
With Moore’s announcement Thursday, three of the eight men seeking the Democratic nomination for governor have now named running mates. All three have turned to women of color: Former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III is running with Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro, while Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot tapped Prince George’s County Councilmember Monique Anderson-Walker, who has resigned from the council to campaign full time.
Gubernatorial candidates have until the Feb. 22 filing deadline to select a candidate for lieutenant governor. The primaries are on June 28.
Moore said he didn’t have any preconceived notions when he began to consider potential running mates.
“I walked into this process knowing that there weren’t a series of boxes that I wanted to check,” he said. But he said Miller’s credentials quickly put her at the top of his wish list, and after a few conversations it became clear that they could forge a formidable governing partnership if they’re elected.
“This is not going to be a ceremonial position in our administration,” he said, describing Miller as “a thought partner” and someone he would rely on to reach out to the legislature and other elected officials.
Miller said she’s painfully aware that the Maryland Constitution lays out no formal role for lieutenant governors, but came away convinced from her conversations with Moore that she would be a true governing partner with discrete and substantive assignments.
“We’re going to refine and fill in the details about this role,” she said.
Miller said her husband bought her Moore’s book as a birthday gift last month just as the two were having initial discussions about a possible political partnership (and it took away her husband’s dilemma about what to get her). Although she has served alongside Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) and former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D), Miller said she is convinced that Moore’s “qualifications for governor are unparalleled for modern times.”
“I see this as a turning point in Maryland,” she said. “We’re in a new paradigm. And moments like this are when we need a leader like Wes.”