Democrat Alec Ross picks Montgomery County brewer as running mate

Erin Cox
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Alec Ross, a Democratic candidate for Maryland governor, announced Monday that he has chosen Julie Verratti, a craft beer brewer who worked to support small businesses for the Obama administration, as his running mate.

Ross, an author and tech entrepreneur from Baltimore, said Verratti’s business acumen and work as a political activist made her the right fit in the crowded race for the Democratic nomination for governor.

“What I really wanted first and foremost was someone who was really focused on the future, who was focused on what's next,” Ross said. “I wanted someone with executive experience.”

Verratti was born and raised in Silver Spring, where she lives with her wife, Emily Bruno. The couple co-owns the Denizens Brewing Co. A graduate of the George Washington University law school, she was a presidential management fellow and has worked for the Small Business Administration. She is active in the Montgomery County business community.

“We're really focused on the economy and the changing nature of the world that we live in,” Verratti said. “People are hungry for new leadership.

She said she brings to the campaign an understanding of entrepreneurship. She noted that she was talking from a parking lot between beer deliveries.

“I'm in the nitty-gritty,” she said. “I know exactly what it's like to run a business.”

State Sen. William C. Smith Jr., a Montgomery County Democrat, said he got to know Verratti when they served together on an economic development task force working to attract more nighttime businesses to Silver Spring. He described Verratti as a “smart businesswoman” who has worked around politics and for social justice causes.

“She’s got the common touch,” Smith said. “And she’s got expertise in business.”

Verratti serves on Comptroller Peter Franchot’s task force to examine state regulations of Maryland’s craft beer industry.

Verratti and Ross met at a business event in Montgomery County. She was impressed by his innovative ideas. And he was impressed when she presented “the most intelligent questions and observations I’d heard.”

“I was standing at the podium thinking, ‘I really want to know this woman,’ ” Ross said.

Neither Ross nor Verratti has sought elective office before. Ross worked as a political appointee in President Barack Obama’s administration. And Verratti was a civil servant for Obama’s Small Business Administration.

Verratti’s biography on her company’s website states that her main “bucket list” item is “having a beer with Hillary Clinton.” It also states that her favorite team is the Baltimore Orioles.

Ross is one of five candidates running for governor who raised over a million dollars last year. He had the fifth least cash on hand.

He’s the fourth candidate recognized by the party to announce a running mate ahead of the Feb. 27 deadline for candidates to file to run for office.

Former NAACP President Ben Jealous is running with former Maryland Democratic Party chairwoman Susan Turnbull. Baltimore lawyer Jim Shea is running with Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott. State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. is running with Luwanda Jenkins, a former aide to Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Other declared candidates in the race are Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and former Michelle Obama adviser Krish Vignarajah.

Perennial candidate Ralph Jaffe has also filed to run with his sister, Freda Jaffe, in the June 26 Democratic primary.

ecox@baltsun.com

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