Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III tapped Elizabeth Embry as his running mate in the race for governor, bringing an experienced criminal prosecutor with deep Baltimore ties to Baker’s campaign for the Democratic nomination.
Embry was chief of the attorney general’s criminal division until Tuesday, when Baker plans to announce his choice. Embry said she resigned her job to focus full-time on the governor’s race.
She impressed many in Democratic circles two years ago with her first-time candidacy in the Baltimore mayor race, finishing third in a 13-way primary against rivals with better name recognition.
Embry, a former deputy state’s attorney and Baltimore native, gives Baker access to the city’s business and political circles. While Baker is well known in the Washington suburbs and currently polls the highest in the seven-way Democratic primary, he has fewer connections to the vote-rich Baltimore region.
Baker, 59, said that until recently he knew little about Embry, 40, besides the education plan she proposed for Baltimore and that she took on established politicians for the city’s top job rather than wait her turn in the wings.
“I thought ‘Wow, that was was gutsy,’ ” Baker said. “It reminded me of me — in 2002 when I ran against the field in Prince George’s” for the county executive job, an election that he also lost to more established politicians.
Baker already was weighing a handful of other finalists to join his ticket when he met Embry over dinner in hopes of learning more about her crime reduction ideas for Baltimore.
He said Monday that within five minutes of sitting down he was “completely blown away” by their similar styles of thinking and the way Embry could articulate his ideas better than he could. He said he walked out of the restaurant knowing he wanted her as his running mate.
With Embry at his side, Baker said, “I’m going to spend a lot of time in Baltimore understanding those complex problems in a new way.”
Embry said she also sees her new running mate, whom she said she had admired from afar, as a kindred spirit.
“We really think about things the same way,” Embry said. “We not only share the same values, we’re thinking about problems and problem-solving in the same way. …
“This was a big and crazy decision for me, having to leave my job and go full time into campaigning again, but I feel great about it,” she said.
Embry is the daughter of prominent philanthropist Robert C. Embry Jr. and sculptor and arts advocate Mary Ann E. Mears.
When the extended Embry and Baker families met recently for dinner, Baker realized that Mears had lobbied him for arts funding decades ago when he was a member of the General Assembly. And in his early 30s he had sought strategies on nonprofit building from the Abell Foundation, which is run by Embry’s father.
Baker said the rediscovered connections with her family further cemented his sense that “there really was chemistry” between the two of them.
The pick is also politically expedient, said Mileah Kromer, a political scientist at Goucher College.
“People who saw her campaign in Baltimore City walked away liking her,” Kromer said. “She adds a great balance to the ticket, and it’s particularly important that she rounds out some of the policy expertise and she shows an ability to fund-raise.”
Democrats seeking their party’s nomination have until Feb. 27 to select a running mate.
Former NAACP President Ben Jealous announced in November he is running with former Maryland Democratic Party chairwoman Susan Turnbull. Baltimore lawyer Jim Shea last week announced a bid with Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott. State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. on Sunday said he is running with Luwanda Jenkins, a former aide to Gov. Martin O’Malley. And author and tech entrepreneur Alec Ross announced Monday that he is running with Julie Veratti, a Montgomery County businesswoman who owns a craft brewery.
Other declared candidates in the race are Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and former Michelle Obama adviser Krish Vignarajah.
Perennial candidate and teacher Ralph Jaffe also filed to run with his sister, Freda Jaffe, in the June 26 Democratic primary.