Vignarajah picks former Baltimore teacher as running mate, creating only all-female ticket in governor's race

Erin Cox
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Democrat Krish Vignarajah has picked Sharon Blake, former president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, as her running mate in the race for Maryland governor.

Vignarajah is the only woman in the crowded seven-way Democratic primary for governor, and her selection of Blake, 67, creates the state’s first all-female gubernatorial ticket in almost 25 years.

Vignarajah, a former policy aide to Michelle Obama, and her campaign called the pairing “the first ever all-women of color ticket” that is “shattering glass ceilings.”

The announcement late Tuesday afternoon comes ahead of a midnight filing deadline for candidates and completes the Democratic field fighting to face popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November.

The other six competitors announced their running mates last week. All but one selected a woman as his running mate.

Blake retired last year after working as a teacher for 40 years at six different Baltimore public schools, including Renaissance Academy, Frederick Douglass and Northwestern high schools, the campaign said. She has been chair of an English department and was elected several times as president of the city’s teacher’s union. She grew up in Prince George’s County, currently lives in Baltimore County and is a graduate of Morgan State University.

“America is changing, and our leadership must reflect that,” Blake said in a statement. “Krish and I are making history for women, and women of color, in Maryland and across the nation.

“But that doesn’t mean we simply replace voices that are already at the table, it means we work together to build bridges and relationships with people of all backgrounds,” she said. “It means we work harder to add a diversity of thought and experience to the table that already exists.”

Vignarajah, who grew up in Baltimore County and attended public schools there, said that education will be a central part of their campaign.

“It’s time for Maryland to make history,” Vignarajah said in a statement. “We have a strong, united vision — a vision for leadership, a vision for public education, and a vision for elevating women and women of color to have a stronger, louder voice at the table and in the political process here in Maryland.”

The only previous all-female ticket in the Maryland governor’s race was in 1994, when Democrat Mary Boergers ran with Barbara Osborn Kreamer. They lost in the primary to Parris N.Glendening, who went on to become governor.

Democratic activism during the past two years has been largely fueled by women reacting to President Donald Trump and his administration, starting with the well-attended Women’s March in Washington on the day after the Republican’s inauguration.

All but one of Vignarajah’s challengers selected women as their running mates, leading former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend — the first and only female lieutenant governor in state history — to declare that 2018 is “the year of the woman” in Maryland politics.

NAACP chief Ben Jealous, teamed up with Susan Turnbull, a former head of the Maryland Democratic Party. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker chose Elizabeth Embry, a well-connected Baltimore lawyer. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz selected Valerie Ervin, a progressive activist from Montgomery County. Tech entrepreneur Alec Ross is running with Julie Verratti, founder of a brewing company. And state Sen. Richard Madaleno chose Luwanda Jenkins, a former O’Malley administration official.

Lawyer Jim Shea picked Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott.

Perennial candidate Ralph Jaffe is again on the ballot with is his sister, Freda Jaffe.

The primary election will be held June 26.

ecox@baltsun.com

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