Maryland lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Valerie Ervin announced Thursday she will run for governor in this summer's Democratic primary, in place of her running mate Kevin Kamenetz, who died suddenly last week of cardiac arrest.
Ervin becomes the second woman in the crowded Democratic field, alongside Krish Vignarajah, Michelle Obama's former policy director. She is the third African-American candidate, along with former NAACP President Ben Jealous and Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker.
Ervin is no stranger to public office. In 2006, she became the first black woman elected to the Montgomery County Council, where she served for two terms and was elected council president for her final two years in office. Before that, she served on the Montgomery County Board of Education for two years.
Ervin spoke at the University of Maryland's campus in March. She discussed pieces of her platform, which included backing free community college plans, marijuana legalization and universal health care. Ervin also supports a $15 minimum wage.
"I think we're going to have to experiment to see what works and what doesn't," Ervin said of college affordability at the time. "Nothing happens overnight, but I think students are going to have to play a big role in advocating and speaking out on it."
She has tapped former Baltimore County school board member Marisol Johnson — the first Latinx to serve on the board — to be her running mate, The Washington Post reported.
"I'm pumped. I'm excited. I'm optimistic," Johnson told the Baltimore Sun.
Other Democratic candidates include state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery), attorney Jim Shea, tech entrepreneur and author Alec Ross, high school teacher Ralph Jaffe and Baltimore business owner James Jones.
Ervin had a deadline of 5 p.m. Thursday to decide whether to take Kamenetz' place on the ticket, remain the lieutenant governor candidate and select a replacement for Kamenetz, or drop out of the race entirely.
Baker released a statement Thursday welcoming Ervin to the race.
"As we look forward, we recognize that Kevin Kamenetz, like all the candidates for Maryland Governor, made an important decision when he chose his running mate," the statement read. "The most important part of that deliberation is choosing someone to continue on in your absence."
Ervin has been called "sharp-elbowed" for her criticism of other gubernatorial candidates — including Baker, who she said has "lost support" in Prince George's County, and Jealous because of his lack of experience in public office — according to the Post.
"I hear people say I have sharp elbows. I see that as a badge of honor," she told the Post. "I'm not trying to be disagreeable. But so much still needs to happen to make it better for children and for families who are struggling and people who need jobs and transportation. If I ruffle feathers to get those things done, I will say 'Job well done' when it's over."
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of the headline on this article misspelled Kevin Kamenetz's name. The headline has been updated.