Candidate for Maryland governor asks court to affirm her eligibility

Krish Vignarajah, a Democratic candidate for Maryland governor, asked a court Friday to affirm her eligibility to run for the office amid questions whether she meets residency requirements.

Vignarajah, a former policy director for first lady Michelle Obama, filed a motion for declaratory judgment in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. Among the defendants she names is the campaign of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

The motion asks the court to issue a binding ruling that she has the right to appear on the June 26 primary ballot and to dispel what she calls “spurious claims and rumors circulated by her opponents.”

Maryland requires a candidate for governor to be a registered voter in the state for five years. Vignarajah acknowledges that while she worked in the White House, she voted in the District of Columbia.

Vignarajah maintains she has been a Maryland resident since infancy and registered to vote in the state in 2006. She said the fact she voted in Washington while living there temporarily did not invalidate her Maryland voter registration. She said she has not voted in both jurisdictions in the same election.

“Maryland has always been and will always be my home,” Vignarajah said in a statement. “As someone with as deep Maryland roots as any of the other candidates, it is disappointing that the governor’s re-election campaign is already resorting to baseless attacks to try to keep me off the ballot.”

A spokesman for the Hogan campaign declined to comment.

The blog Bethesda Beat reported that Vignarajah voted multiple times in the District from 2010 to 2014 while serving in the Obama administration, but kept her Maryland registration active.

In her motion, Vignarajah asserts that the state Court of Appeals has ruled that Maryland voters give up that status only if they set up a permanent residence outside the state. In an affidavit, Vignarajah swears she had no such intent when she served as a presidential appointee under Michelle Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Vignarajah, 38, lives in Gaithersburg with her husband and daughter. The political newcomer is the only woman in the crowded Democratic field seeking the nomination to oppose Hogan.

Dirk Haire, chairman of the Maryland GOP and Hogan’s campaign lawyer, has pointed to Vignarajah’s candidacy as evidence that “Democrats can’t get their act together.”

“Krishanti Vignarajah does not even meet residency requirements and has shown she simply doesn’t have what it takes to lead our state,” Haire told The Baltimore Sun last month.

Haire said Friday he was speaking as party chairman only. He said the Hogan campaign has not taken formal steps to challenge her eligibility.

Vignarajah’s motion also refers to other, unnamed opponents but names none of her Democratic rivals as defendants. She does list the Maryland State Board of Elections and one of its employees.

mdresser@baltsun.com

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