Valerie Ervin encouraged to run for governor in place of Kamenetz; has until Thursday to decide

Former Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin has until the end of the day Thursday to decide if she will run for governor in place of her political partner, Kevin Kamenetz, who died suddenly last week.

Kamenetz, the Baltimore County executive and Democratic gubernatorial candidate, died Thursday after suffering cardiac arrest.

Under Maryland law, Ervin has the option to run for governor herself and name a lieutenant governor running mate, or she can remain as a candidate for lieutenant governor with a new partner running for governor.

She has until the fifth business day after Kamenetz’s death — Thursday — to file candidacy paperwork to change the ticket, according to state law.

Ervin has declined to speak about her plans as Kamenetz’s family was observing the Jewish tradition of sitting shiva through Monday. His funeral was Friday.

Still, Ervin is getting encouragement to take Kamenetz’s place at the top of the ticket.

“Kevin Kamenetz chose Valerie because she has the intelligence, heart and integrity to lead this state — he knew that she could step up to be governor should the need occur,” former U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, a longtime friend of Ervin’s, said in a statement Monday. Edwards is a candidate for Prince George’s County executive.

“There’s no one better to carry on Kevin’s legacy,” Edwards added. “It’s her time to lead Maryland and I am all in, if she is all in.”

The head of a large union that endorsed the Kamenetz-Ervin team also hopes Ervin will stay in the campaign and run for governor herself.

“We are hoping that she runs and we will support whatever she decides to do, one way or the other,” said John Boardman, executive secretary-treasurer of Unite Here Local 25, which represents thousands of hotel workers in the Washington area.

Boardman said Ervin has solid credentials as a former school board member and councilwoman in Montgomery County, and experience in the labor movement.

“We were completely enthusiastic about the team,” Boardman said. “It’s tragic we have lost one of the members of the team, but I don’t think that diminishes in any way, shape or form her qualifications or her viability as a candidate.”

Boardman said he hadn’t spoken to Ervin about the decision she’s facing, but he would encourage her to run if she sought guidance.

It’s not clear if Kamenetz’s name would remain on the ballot or how voters would be informed if Ervin choses to change the ticket.

Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled earlier this month that state elections officials did not have to print new ballots to remove the name of former state senator Nathaniel Oaks, who tried to get his name off the ballot after pleading guilty to federal charges and resigning from office.

State elections officials argued that it was too late to take Oaks’ name off the ballots and reprint them. The primary election is June 26, with early voting starting on June 14.

Donna Duncan, assistant deputy elections administrator, declined to comment on what may happen with Kamenetz’s name on the ballot.

If Ervin decides to stay in the race — either as a candidate for governor or lieutenant governor — she would be able to use money in her campaign account or a joint account she has with Kamenetz, but not Kamenetz’s main campaign account, elections officials have said.

Ervin reported having about $50,000 in her campaign account in January, before she was named as Kamenetz’s running mate. She formed a joint account with Kamenetz this spring with $1,000 in seed money.

Kamenetz has been a prolific and successful fundraiser, with just more than $2 million in the bank in January, the most of the leading Democratic candidates for governor.

With Ervin unable to use that money, Kamenetz’s campaign funds can be returned to donors or sent to local or state party central committees, the Baltimore County school system, certain charities, colleges for student scholarships or to the state’s Fair Campaign Financing Fund, according to state law.

Should Ervin decide to run for governor, she would be part of a crowded field that includes six other leading candidates — Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, former NAACP chief Ben Jealous, state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno, author Alec Ross, lawyer Jim Shea and Krish Vignarajah, a former aide to Michelle Obama. The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November’s general election.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

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