Category Archives: Valerie Ervin

Robinson, Platt Endorse Shnider in Council District 3

Montgomery County Council District 3 candidate Ben Shnider has been endorsed by Delegates Shane Robinson (D-39), Andrew Platt (D-17) and the leader of a hotel employees local union.  Former Council Member Valerie Ervin (D-5) has also offered praise for Shnider’s candidacy.  We reprint Shnider’s press release below.



September 15, 2015

Contact:  Ilya Braverman



Progressive Leaders Endorse Ben Shnider for Montgomery County Council in District 3

Delegates Robinson and Platt join Unite Here Local 23 in endorsing Shnider’s council campaign ahead of kick-off event

Rockville, MD – On Saturday, Sept. 16 at 1 PM, Ben Shnider’s campaign for Montgomery County Council will host a canvass kick-off event at the Lincoln Park Community Center in Rockville.

Among those in attendance will be several notable community leaders who are endorsing Shnider’s campaign for progressive change in District 3.

  • Delegate Shane Robinson (D-39), Chair, Montgomery County House Delegation:

“I’ve known Ben for years and have seen him in action. I’m confident he’ll work tirelessly to ensure all members of our community can afford to live and thrive in Montgomery County. I know he also shares my commitment to keeping pesticides out of the Chesapeake watershed and a solid waste management strategy that moves aggressively toward zero-waste. I’m proud to endorse his campaign.”

  • Delegate Andrew Platt (D-17):

“I hear from families that I represent in Rockville and Gaithersburg every day who are struggling to keep up with the skyrocketing cost-of-living. I’m endorsing Ben’s campaign for County Council because I know he’ll be a tireless advocate for these working families.”

  • Bert Bayou, President, Unite Here Local 23:

“Our 1,000+ members in Montgomery County are hungry for leaders who will work with us to ensure we’re treated fairly on the job and paid a living wage. We’re confident Ben will be such a leader and enthusiastically endorse his campaign.”

In addition to these three endorsements, former County Councilmember Valerie Ervin said the following about Ben’s candidacy:

  • Former County Councilmember Valerie Ervin (D-5):

“I’m thrilled Ben is running and can’t wait to join him for his kick-off. Ben’s a talented organizer and a principled progressive who would be a passionate advocate for the underserved on the County Council. It’s time to pass the torch to the next generation of progressive leaders in this county. Ben is such a leader.”

About Ben:

Ben Shnider is a civic activist running to represent District 3 on the Montgomery County Council. He’s running to ensure that all families can afford to live and thrive in our community. Ben has dedicated his life to fighting for progressive values. Prior to running, he worked as an organizer for then-Senator Barack Obama’s historic 2008 Presidential campaign, launched the political arm of the advocacy organization Bend the Arc, and served as Political Director for the pro-diplomacy group J Street. Ben is a former Board Member for the Montgomery County Action Committee for Transit and serves as Vice Chair of Rockville’s Human Rights Commission.

He lives with his wife, Sheri, and their rescue dog, Twist, in Rockville’s King Farm neighborhood. To learn more about Ben, visit


Ervin Criticizes Party Chair Election Process

Today, I am pleased to present a guest blog by Valerie Ervin, a former Montgomery County Councilmember (D-5) and now a Senior Advisor to the Working Families Party.

The Maryland Democratic Party is poised to choose a new party chair.  Unlike the National Democratic Party that to its credit engaged in a very open and transparent process that culminated in the close and historic election of Tom Perez, the first Latino to ever hold this position.  It also ensured that Rep. Keith Ellison, the candidate whose support came from the left of the party, would become the Deputy Chair.  The DNC is on the move as to build an inclusive party, one that promises to use its resources to build local state parties and to do that by grassroots organizing.

As the DNC moves forward, the Maryland Democratic Party remains stuck in the remnants of the past.  The Maryland Democratic Party is set to bypass democracy and transparency and make one of its most important decisions for the future of the party, in a small room with only a few invited guests present.

In the 2014 mid-term elections, a Republican became the Governor of Maryland, only the second Republican Governor since 1969.  Also, in 2014, Maryland experienced one of the lowest voter turnouts in its history.  Less than half of the state’s 3.7 million eligible voters turned out.  In the Maryland’s largest counties, Montgomery and Prince Georges, the turnout was particularly unimpressive.

Many Democratic voters stayed at home.  There was an enthusiasm gap to be sure.  Voters believed that the candidates running for state-wide office gave them little or no reason to go to the polls.

In a recent article by Steve Phillips author of Brown is the New White, he writes, “The largely untold story of the 2016 election is that more white Obama voters defected to third- and fourth-party candidates than the number who supported Mr. Trump.  That is the white flight that should most concern the next DNC chairman.  The way to win them back is by being more progressive, not less.”

The election of Tom Perez to lead the DNC is the starting point to what will be a long and difficult struggle to rebuild the party at the national and local level.  The older and often moribund officials who still hold the power to singularly impact the future of democrats in Maryland are still in charge.  The party will rebuild itself when we hold space for the emerging heart and soul of our party.  They are more brown, black, young, female and progressive.

How do we win back the voters that left the party?  Let’s first start by holding ourselves accountable.  We must lead by example. When the Maryland Democratic Party meets on March 1st to accept the resignation of its Chair and to choose an interim chair, I hope that the party will rise to the occasion and instead of making an appointment, that the party leaders would consider waiting to elect and not select the person who will represent Maryland’s Democratic Party as its chair.  Maryland is known as the Free State, let’s rise to the meaning of that creed.  Let’s get back to the job of electing candidates that reflect the progressive values of that we are known for.


Ervin Canvassing Support for Senate Vacancy

valerieervinglogoFormer Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin is already canvassing support for the expected vacancy in the State Senate when Eighth Congressional District Democratic Nominee Jamie Raskin wins election to the U.S. House.

Ervin represented District 5 on the County Council from 2006 until she stepped down in 2014. She served on the Board of Education for two years prior to winning her Council seat. After leaving public office, Ervin served as the Director of the Center for Working Families and then the National Participatory Democracy Project.

Though Ervin worked most recently for progressive causes, she had excellent ties with the business community during her time on the Council. Earlier this year, she briefly sought the Democratic nomination for the Eighth Congressional District but abandoned the race due to fundraising difficulties.

Despite this setback, Ervin will be a formidable candidate. In the Washington Post, Ervin expressed her frustration at Donna Edwards’s defeat and her strong belief that the party needs more diverse candidates.  Ironically, for the Maryland Senate, this may not be the best comparison as black men are much more underrepresented than black women.

Six of the nine of African-American senators are women, so black women are 12.7% of the Senate membership, as compared to 15.8% of the population – a gap of 3.1%. In contrast, black men comprise 6.4% of the Senate, less than one-half their share of Maryland’s population.

A more advantageous comparison for Ervin is within Montgomery County, which has no African-American senators, though blacks are 18.8% of the population. Three of Montgomery’s eight senators are women – a decline of one from after the election due to the replacement of Karen Montgomery by Craig Zucker.

Regardless, as likely the most experienced politician by far to seek the vacancy, Ervin would bring much more to the race than her race or gender, though both would be assets to a Democratic Party seeking more diversity in its legislative delegation.

In the wake of Edwards’s defeat, Ervin has been hesitant to support Democratic U.S. Senate Nominee Chris Van Hollen. This may just be an election night reaction after a tough loss but she’d do herself a lot of good with the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, which will fill any vacancy, if she’d endorse him quickly.


Ervin Attacks Role of Money Along with Gender and Racial Bias As She Withdraws from CD8 Race


The following is Valerie Ervin’s email announcing her withdrawal from the congressional race for the Eighth Congressional District

I wanted you to be among the first to hear that I’ve decided not to continue my run for Congress in 2016.

It was a hard decision that kept me up many nights. Like many women of all backgrounds across our district who worry about how to pay the bills, send their kids to college, or take care of an ailing parent, my sleepless nights were motivated by money—or more accurately, the lack of it.

You see, I’m not wealthy. I grew up working class and thanks to good union jobs, I’ve been able to work hard and achieve the middle class dream. I’ve been able to buy a home, take care of my needs, and to put away a little for a rainy day and retirement. But like many of you, I need to work to keep up. Unfortunately, our current political system doesn’t make much room for everyday Americans like me—especially women, people of color, and the non-wealthy—to compete on a level playing field.

In politics today, fundraising is the sign of a campaign’s viability. Not your ideas about how to serve your constituents, not your track record of service, not even the groundswell of grassroots support—but your ability to raise money. And unfortunately, I just haven’t been able to raise enough.

It’s no surprise that 50% of members of Congress are millionaires.  A Center for Responsive Politics study found that it takes 18 American households to equal the value of a member of Congress’ household.

Right now in Maryland, we see male candidates for office routinely raising more money than the women in those races. We can and must continue to recruit and train more women and people of color to run for office. It’s the only way we can create an inclusive democracy that speaks to the needs of all citizens.

I’m pulling back the curtain on our political system because we all need to consider what role we’re willing to play to improve it. I decided to run because I believe that more people like me need to be the decision-makers. We need more elected officials who put our interests, concerns and needs on par with the wealthy.

During my brief campaign, I’ve been able to meet hundreds of working people who are struggling to provide for their families and meet their financial obligations. My message of the need to create economic stability for Maryland’s families resonated with many communities who are facing greater financial pressure while trying to stretch a shrinking paycheck. I’m as committed as ever to ensuring that the voices of everyone shapes the direction of District 8, the state of Maryland and our nation. And doing so means we’ve got to build better pathways to an inclusive democracy where everyone has a shot at winning political campaigns, despite their access to wealth.

I can’t thank you enough for your encouragement and support of my campaign. I ran for Congress for all of us. Know that my future endeavors will continue to create more room for all of us to prosper and have a say in the political decisions that affect our lives. Stay tuned!



Valerie Ervin Announces for the Eighth

Her announcement video and email announcement:

Your support has meant so much to me over the years. It’s because of you that I’ve been able to do the work I love, serving the working families of Maryland.

From raising the minimum wage to expanding universal pre-K and school breakfast programs, our accomplishments in Montgomery County are a testament to the power of community-based leadership.

But it’s not enough to stop there. If we want to make lasting change for Maryland’s working families, we need to take that kind of community-based leadership to the nation’s capitol.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey. Show your support by signing up on my website at and liking my Facebook page right away.

Thank you for your faith in me. Together, we are going to build a stronger community for all of us.

Valerie Ervin

Seventh State was the first to report on Valerie’s plans to run back in March. Welcome to the race!


Valerie Ervin Will Be in for the Eighth


UPDATE/Corrections: See bottom of post.

A reliable source tells me that former Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin will run for Congress from the Eighth District that is being vacated by Chris Van Hollen who is running for Senate. She will be a top-tier candidate.

Valerie won election to the School Board in 2004 prior to winning the District 5 Council seat in 2006–the seat now held by Tom Hucker.A past President and Vice-President of the County Council, she stepped down in the year before her term ended to take a job with the non-profit Center for Working Families.


Along with Councilmembers Elrich and Navarro, Ervin worked to raise the minimum wage in Montgomery County just before leaving the Council. Active in the PTA before winning election, she has long been especially interested in education issues, such as universal pre-K and closing the achievement gap.

Many Advantages

While in office, Councilmember Ervin had the knack for being well-liked by both labor and business. Her recent working for the Center for Working Families has only burnished her progressive credentials. In short, she has the potential to appeal to a wide range of voters.

The composition of the electorate works in her favor. The Eighth District is 12% African American but black voters will compose a significantly higher share of primary voters. Democratic primary voters are also disproportionately female, and Ervin is so far the only woman in the race.

School Board members run at large, so she may be the only candidate to have ever been on the ballot throughout the Montgomery County portion of the district. Of course, that would not be the case if Councilmember George Leventhal, her former boss and then colleague, also jumped in the race.


Critical to any effort, however, will be raising money for a successful campaign. The kitty in her Maryland campaign account is essentially empty and I could not find a federal committee listed yet. She has not had to raise the kind of dollars needed for a congressional run in past campaigns.

Nonetheless, I think a disciplined person like Valerie could do it. Backing from EMILY’s list would surely help. The national connections she has made through her activism since leaving the Council may also help her financially. Labor could help provide money as volunteers but there is no way to know which way they’ll jump or if they’ll jump together.

Overlap with Other Candidates

Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-20) now represents many of the same people as Valerie once did on the Council. Assuming he runs, they could compete for many of the same voters geographically in that part of the County, which is rich with Democratic voters. It would probably also aid her campaign if she is the only prominent woman and African-American candidate in the race.


I have already received some push back on some of my characterizations in this post. The points made by person who responded are well taken, so I thought it important to add them here or balance or correction even as I leave up the original post. First and foremost, someone reminded me (correctly) that Valerie was not beloved by local labor by the time she left the Council.

MCGEO and the Police union especially hated her. Gino Renne at MCGEO even targeted her with an attack website, though he goes off on a lot of people. The police union showed up once to boo her at a hearing and Valerie said that the union chief started making “threats.” Finally, she also had strong conflicts with the School Board and MCEA was not sorry to see her go.

On the other hand, she still has very cordial relations with SEIU–nationally the second-largest union in America. And, as we have seen, sides can change quickly in these races, so past opposition does not always predict future behavior–or the views of national unions.