Tag Archives: Valerie Ervin

Ervin Drops Out, Plans to Endorse Baker

Former Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin, who faced an uphill battle in her effort to run for governor has decided to leave the race and to endorse Rushern Baker.

Ervin decided to run after the sudden and sad death of her running mate, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. She faced an uphill battle due to her inability to access his campaign funds. The Board of Elections also could not change the ballots this close to the election, despite Ervin’s complete eligibility under state law to run in Kamenetz’s place and select a new running mate.


Remembering Kevin Kamenetz and Valerie Ervin’s Decision

I spend a lot of time (too much time) watching candidates and talking with them. Being from Montgomery County, I didn’t really know much about Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz before he entered the race.

Remembering Kevin Kamenetz

I had a chance to sit down and talk with him and watched him in debates and forums and he kinda grew on me. He wasn’t the best public speaker in the race but he had a long record of political involvement and experience that meant he could talk easily and in detail about many of the key issues facing Maryland.

Even more critically, he had grappled with many of them. As a result of this experience and representing a swing county, Kamenetz understood that people have a wide range of views and issues are often complicated but also how to make progress on them.

But until I read an article recapping his career in the Baltimore Sun, I didn’t know about Kevin Kamenetz’s work on affordable housing:

Housing was also a battleground in the changing county. Many fought against a program in the 1990s to allow poor city residents to move to the county. The NAACP and other groups filed a federal housing complaint against the county in 2011 alleging discriminatory policies.

It was resolved in 2016 with an agreement signed by Kamenetz that calls for the county to spend millions of dollars to support the construction of affordable housing in neighborhoods lacking it.

“I think it was his leadership that brought the administration to the plate,” [NAACP County Branch President] Fugett said. The settlement “may not be a popular decision,” Fugett said, but Kamenetz “always tried to do the right thing.”

Affordable housing is one of the most unbelievably difficult issues. Localities will go to the mat and beyond to fight the placement of low-income housing in their area. It’s a difficult issue and powerful efforts to force acceptance of affordable housing have usually failed in the face of strong opposition.

In short, there was no political hay to be made on this issue. Nevertheless, Kamenetz got it done, and he got it done in a very low key manner. One of the secrets of politics is that the best accomplishments are often the ones that go unnoticed precisely because they were done carefully in a way that minimized opposition and thus allowed progress to be made.

In an era that celebrates newness, often derides political experience and increasingly celebrates radical change, this sort of politics is underappreciated. Unlike sweeping promises that die on the rocks of reality, getting this done will make a meaningful difference in real people’s lives.

Valerie Ervin’s Decision

In the wake of Kevin Kamenetz’s untimely and sad passing, many of us learned for the first time that Maryland law allows the surviving running mate of a gubernatorial candidate to choose a new running mate and even to switch positions on the ballot. Consequently, Valerie Ervin can now run for governor or lieutenant governor and select a new running mate.

She has to make a decision quickly. Speculation has naturally ensued about what she will decide. While Donna Edwards, Ervin’s longtime friend, has encouraged her, I’ve heard other voices that are more critical of an Ervin bid.

I say it’s up to Valerie Ervin and we should respect her decision whatever it is. Kamanetz and Ervin made a good team and seemed to work well together from what I could see. Beyond that the law clearly gives Ervin the right to run, I see nothing wrong with her choosing to do so.

I imagine she would consult with the Kamenetz-Ervin team, especially with the Kamenetz family. Ervin has already indicated she plans to speak with Jill Kamenetz but I think everyone also understands that this suddenly widowed mother of two kids is coping with an enormous and shocking personal loss.

I don’t know what the law will say about access to the funds that Kamenetz raised for his campaign – they are not in a joint account. I also don’t know how it will impact the race if Ervin runs. The Washington Post quoted speculation that it might hurt Ben Jealous and Rich Madaleno, my preferred candidate. But honestly, who knows at this point in a very fluid election.

Regardless, I think it’s Ervin’s decision. We should respect it and move on with the campaign. Of course, she would rightly face the same scrutiny as any other candidate. And that’s how it should be in any healthy democratic competition. But, her decision to run shouldn’t be the issue.


Valerie Ervin Issues Statement

Valerie Ervin Issues Statement Following the Passing of Kevin Kamenetz
PIKESVILLE, MD (May 10, 2018) — Valerie Ervin today issued the following statement:

“Like so many, I am shocked and heartbroken by this sudden and unexpected loss. I want to thank those across Maryland for their outpouring of support, sympathy, and gratitude during this difficult time.

“Kevin was first and foremost a loving husband to his wife Jill and a proud father to Karson and Dylan. And he was a dedicated, bold leader who served the people of Baltimore County for over 20 years. I have been honored to call him a friend and partner.

“Today all of Maryland mourns with his family, friends, and loved ones.”


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?


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

Email:     ilya@shniderforcouncil.com

Website: https://www.shniderforcouncil.com

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 www.shniderforcouncil.com


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.


The Next Senator from District 20

The battle to replace Jamie Raskin in the State Senate is currently the object of much speculation but the logical and likely appointment by the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) seems obvious: Del. Will Smith.

All three sitting Montgomery senators who gained that office via appointment were already delegates: Craig Zucker in District 14, Brian Feldman in District 15, Nancy King in District 39. Each had served at least one full term in the House before moving to the Senate.

Beyond experience, selection of a delegate also make sense because the exact same constituency has already elected them to the General Assembly. The three delegates are not just the most obvious but most democratic choices.

Among the three delegates, Del. Sheila Hixson could have it if she wanted it but doesn’t. That leaves Del. David Moon and Del. Will Smith. Both are former campaign managers for Sen. Jamie Raskin’s past campaigns and won election in 2014.

Prior to their election, highly diverse District 20 had an all white state legislative delegation. The election of Korean American Moon and African American Smith changed that. Beyond personal ties, Sen. Raskin and Del. Hixon’s desire to diversify the delegation no doubt played a role in their joint endorsements of Moon and Smith.

The Montgomery County Democratic Party remains interested in promoting greater racial diversity in the delegation. MCDCC will be under enormous pressure to take this into account during its deliberations.

This factor weighs heavily against David Moon. No African American has ever won election or appointment to the Senate from Montgomery County. According to the Census, African Americans now form roughly 19% of the County’s population.

In contrast, there is currently one Asian American Senator–District 16 Sen. Susan Lee. She forms one of eight, or 12.5%, of the Montgomery County Senate delegation–not far off the estimated 15% of the County’s population that is Asian American.

There are currently three African Americans (Dels. Al Carr, Pam Queen and Will Smith) and four Asian Americans (Dels. Kumar Barve, Aruna Miller and David Moon along with Sen. Susan Lee) in the entire Montgomery state legislative delegation, so African Americans have less overall representation in terms of absolute numbers and percentages.

David Moon has advocated for increased minority representation in the General Assembly. He has promoted minority candidates and helped to pass along his considerable campaign skills. Nonetheless, the logic of these very ideas will work against him in a jurisdiction and party attuned to racial balance, especially since District 20 has the highest share of African Americans in the County.

Other African Americans have thrown their hat into the ring, notably former County Councilmember Valerie Ervin and Will Jawando. Both are well qualified but have political strikes against them that mitigate against an appointment over Smith.

Ervin has touted that her appointment would be a double win, as her appointment would bring the share of women in the Senate delegation to parity. However, she abandoned her seat on the County Council before the end of her term to take up another job, which annoyed many activists.

Additionally, Ervin supported Edwards for Senate–not the popular position in Montgomery. While this is not nearly as problematic as her resignation, Ervin’s quotes in the media expressing ambivalence about endorsing Van Hollen in the immediate aftermath of the election are much more damaging.

Jawando faces an uphill climb for different reasons. Smith beat him for a delegate seat in 2014. Why should MCDCC second guess the choice of the voters? Second, after losing that race, he made a quixotic bid for the congressional seat against Raskin.

If Jawando had supported Raskin, he would have been very well positioned for the delegate seat. Opposing Raskin, who has long had very strong support among this same constituency, has made winning that seat far more difficult, especially since he received even fewer votes in his congressional bid than his delegate race.


CD8 is Wide Open

Today, I am pleased to present a guest post from Adam Pagnucco:

Long-time District 8 Congressman Chris Van Hollen is now running for the U.S. Senate. Who will succeed him? No one knows because this race is wide open. That’s right, wide open.

Announced or potential candidates include At-Large Councilmembers Nancy Floreen and Hans Riemer, District 20 State Senator Jamie Raskin, District 17 Delegate Kumar Barve, District 16 Delegate Ariana Kelly, former District 5 County Council Member Valerie Ervin, former District 20 Delegate candidate Will Jawando and former WJLA anchor and current Marriott executive Kathleen Matthews. All except Matthews have campaign records. None have run campaigns that approach anything close to the scale of a congressional race.

Consider the following data.

CD8 Comparison

Campaign Spending

In the CD8 2002 primary, Chris Van Hollen spent $1.1 million and won. Mark Shriver spent $2.6 million and lost. None of the prospective candidates in the current CD8 have demonstrated that kind of monetary capacity. Raskin, Riemer and Floreen spent between 200k and 300k on their competitive races. Barve came close to that level in 2014. Ervin has never spent more than 100k in a campaign. All of these candidates would need to dramatically increase their fundraising activity and it’s hard to see that any one has a significant advantage over the others. Matthews, who may be able to draw on self-financing, national Dem money and corporate money, may be an exception.

Size of Electorate

It’s tricky to forecast the size of the CD8 Dem primary electorate because the district was changed radically in 2012 and it does not have a recent experience of primary competition. Van Hollen faced no-names in both the 2012 and 2014 primary and general elections. In the 2002 primary, when the district was almost entirely in MoCo, 86,000 Dems voted. That was a high turnout year for Dems in terms of gubernatorial elections, but 2016 is a presidential year and many more Dems could turn out. In 2012, a presidential year, just 39,000 Dems voted in the primary, as Van Hollen clobbered an opponent without a federal account and there was no meaningful competition in the Presidential and U.S. Senate races. A combination of competition in the U.S. Senate and CD8 races, plus support for Hillary Clinton, could drive turnout in the 2016 CD8 Dem primary north of 100,000.

Among the possible candidates in the CD8 primary, only Nancy Floreen and Hans Riemer have experience running in an electorate that large. State legislative races tend to draw out 7,000-16,000 Democratic primary voters. But Floreen and Riemer don’t necessarily have an advantage because their races are fundamentally different from congressional contests (more below).

Multiple-Vote vs One-Vote Races

A congressional race has one similarity to a State Senate race: voters only get to vote for one candidate. In House of Delegates races (at least in MoCo), voters can vote for up to three candidates. In Council At-Large races, they can vote for up to four. These are very different dynamics.

In a multiple-vote race, a candidate can be no one’s first choice, but can be the second or third choice of a lot of people and still win. Such a candidate would do poorly in a one-vote race like Congress. Even though Floreen and Riemer have won countywide, many of their voters are not voting for them. In 2010, 113,653 MoCo Democrats voted in the primary. Riemer received 40,493 votes (36%) and Floreen received 39,500 (35%). In 2014, 91,046 MoCo Democrats voted in the primary, which was notably less competitive than it was in 2010. Riemer received 49,932 votes (55%) and Floreen received 52,924 votes (58%). The number of voters who would rate either Riemer or Floreen as their first choice would be FAR fewer and would be closer to the total of one of the State Senators.

For what it’s worth, Floreen finished first in 32 of the 138 CD8 precincts located in Montgomery County in 2014. Riemer finished first in 11. At-Large Council Member Marc Elrich, who finished first in 90 CD8 precincts, has shown no interest in a Congressional race.

Delegates have similar problems. Barve and Kelly finished first in their respective House races, but the number of their voters who would have picked them as a first choice is unknowable short of a contemporaneous poll.

District Overlap

State legislators do not enter this race on equal footing. District boundaries and voting patterns give some an advantage over others. Delegate Ariana Kelly benefits from the fact that her district has more actual primary voters in CD8 than any other MoCo state legislative district. In terms of cards cast on 2014 primary election day by residents of CD8, Kelly’s District 16 led with 14,114, followed by District 18 (12, 072), District 20, home of Senator Jamie Raskin and Will Jawando (9,331), District 19 (6,948), District 17, home of Delegate Kumar Barve (4,929), District 14 (3,302) and District 15 (442). Barve is handicapped by the fact that 42% of voters in his district reside in CD6, not CD8.


Fifty-nine percent of MoCo Democrats are women. That figure applies to registered Dems, voting Dems and “super-Dems,” or Dems who always vote. This is not necessarily a prohibitive advantage for female candidates. But if one or two strong women face off against a male-dominated field, it’s possible that this factor could act as something like a tiebreaker. A savvy female candidate might point out that with U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski’s retirement and Rep. Donna Edwards’ entry into the Senate race, the state could be facing the very real prospect of an all-male congressional delegation.

Presidential Year vs. Gubernatorial Year Turnout

Presidential year Democratic primaries tend to attract higher turnout than gubernatorial year Dem primaries. Below are stats on how many MoCo Dems voted in the primary over the last six elections (both presidential and gubernatorial). With the glaring exception of 2012, when there was little or no competition in the presidential, U.S. Senate and CD8 races, presidential year turnouts tend to be higher. That means in a presidential year CD8 race, there will be tens of thousands of Democratic voters who have not voted in gubernatorial races and do not know their state senators, delegates or councilmembers. Communicating with these people will be a significant challenge for any candidate. Also, anywhere from a sixth to a fifth of the CD8 primary electorate will be residents of Carroll and Frederick Counties.

MoCo Turnout Dem Primary

Bottom Line

There are no favorites in this field. No candidate has proven that he or she can raise the money for a congressional campaign. The at-large County Council candidates run across a big geography but not in one-vote races. State legislators have small districts (at least compared to CD8) and delegates run in multiple-vote elections. Tens of thousands of non-gubernatorial and non-MoCo voters will have no idea who any of the candidates are and they will need some attention.

Wide open, folks. This contest is wide open.