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.
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.