Valerie Ervin for County Executive?

A reliable source tells me that former County Councilmember Valerie Ervin (D-5) is planning to jump into the race for Montgomery County Executive. I’ve reached out to her for comment but have not yet received a response.

Valerie Ervin 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 in 2014 to take a job with the non-profit Center for Working Families.

Ervin briefly sought the nomination for the Eighth Congressional District in 2016 before pulling out of the race, which she explained was due to the challenge of raising the enormous sums of money required to be competitive.

The new public financing system would likely make it easier for to run a competitive campaign for county executive without raising the huge sums required for a congressional contest. Still, she would need to act fast to catch up with other candidates.

If she enters the contest, Ervin will be the only woman, African-American, or nonwhite candidate in the race. As Montgomery County is now 19.5%  black and only 44.7% non-Hispanic white according to Census estimates from 2016, this could prove an advantage. African Americans likely punch above their weight in the Democratic primary, as a disproportionate share are Democrats and vote compared to other racial and ethnic groups.

Democratic primaries are also disproportionately female, with women regularly comprising around 60% of the electorate, and sometimes even higher. Still, Montgomery voters have shown that they vote based on a variety of factors. Being from the same group as a voter may help get a candidate in the door but concrete issues and reasons are needed to gain a vote.

As I’ve mentioned previously, while in office, Councilmember Ervin had the knack for being well-liked by both labor and business, though the bloom was definitely off the rose in her relationship with labor by the time she left office. Her recent work for the Center for Working Families, however, has burnished her progressive credentials–helpful in a year when many are still energized by Bernie Sanders or angry about Donald Trump.

On other hand, many remain disquieted that Ervin left her Council seat early. In 2016, she endorsed Donna Edwards for Senate over Chris Van Hollen, who remains extremely popular in Montgomery and won handily here in the primary.

Interestingly, if she runs, Ervin would be running against her former boss, Councilmember George Leventhal. Both are officials who have eclectic sets of supporters in the past but would be trying to appeal to the progressive vote in this election.

Consequently, an Ervin candidacy would not help Leventhal’s prospects. It also could well provide an alternative to some Elrich voters, particularly those who would welcome a nonwhite candidate or our first woman as county executive.

At the same time, I imagine Marc Elrich would not be shy about pointing out occasions where he and Valerie diverged on business or social justice issues. Labor unions with long memories, especially MCGEO and the Police union, might enjoy exacting revenge. Ervin had good relations with SEIU but it might also join other unions in backing Elrich.

At any rate, Ervin’s entry would sure shake up an already interesting race. Will she take the plunge?