After the tragic and untimely death of former Baltimore County executive Kevin Kamenetz, his running mate Valerie Ervin has decided to stay in the race as a candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination herself. What kind of governor might she be? Her past record offers some insight into what her policies are as they relate to urbanism.
Ervin has selected a new running mate, Marisol Johnson, and is working hard to overcome the logistical challenges inherent in forming a fresh ticket just weeks before the primary election. While those practical and political challenges may absorb a lot of the focus of her campaign, we wanted to take a closer look at what we know of her on the issues.
Who is Valerie Ervin?
Valerie Ervin is a lifelong labor activist who first got into politics as president of the Montgomery Blair High School PTA. That led to two years on the Montgomery County Board of Education, and in 2006, she was the first African American woman elected to the Montgomery County Council. She represented District 5, the easternmost chunk of the county which includes Silver Spring and Wheaton and, after a redistricting in 2010, took in White Oak and Burtonsville. In 2013, she stepped down to work for the Working Families Party as a senior adviser, commuting from her Silver Spring home to New York.
Where is Ervin on urbanist issues?
On the County Council, Valerie Ervin was a supporter of smart growth and housing affordability issues. In this op-ed she wrote in 2007, she advocates for transit-oriented development and a proactive policy approach to impact fees in the county as the way to keep Montgomery County diverse and inclusive. She also acknowledged the connection between school performance and economic inequality, and led efforts to get the county and the school system to collaborate on projects in high-poverty schools.
She was always frank about the fact that the county would continue to grow, especially in her community of Silver Spring. “Urbanization has happened whether I'm in favor of it or not,” she said in a 2007 interview. “Silver Spring is far from being finished. We're still in phase one of a five-phase program for development.”
In 2011, she spent a year as president of the Council, which included tough work like upzoning near Metro stations and and passing sector plans to guide future development in downtown Wheaton and the Takoma/Langley Crossroads. However, she sometimes waffled in her support of concentrating growth near Metro when the going got hard, such as improving access to the Forest Glen Metro station.
Valerie Ervin was a supporter of the Intercounty Connector (ICC), a highway project which is now a tremendous burden on Maryland's budget. The ICC enjoyed faily broad support on the council at the time, including from the candidate GGWash has endorsed for Montgomery County Executive, George Leventhal. (Ervin was Leventhal's chief of staff before her election to the school board).
Does Ervin's candidacy change GGWash's view of the gubernatorial race?
No. While the three-way slug fest playing out on Twitter and elsewhere between Ervin, Ben Jealous, and Rushern Baker is adding sometimes glaringly personal heat and light to the final weeks of the Democratic primary, our endorsement of Rushern Baker as the best Democratic candidate to advance rational policies and budget priorities for Maryland on transportation and land use stands.
The breadth of Baker's experience and record in eight years as Prince George's County Executive, as well as the added value to the governor's seat of his prior statehouse experience, simply is not matched by Ervin's resume. We would be interested to see Ervin as a candidate for other elected office in Montgomery County and Maryland in the future, but the Elections Committee continues to recommend Maryland voters choose Rushern Baker on June 26.