Two of the Democrats who are vying for the chance to unseat Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in this year’s general election announced Lieutenant Governor picks this week in hopes of balancing ties to Montgomery County with the rest of the state in order to present an appealing choice to voters across Maryland.
Montgomery County State Sen. Richard Madaleno announced in Baltimore Monday morning his selection of Luwanda Jenkins as his running mate. Jenkins, whose record boasts private sector and education experience in Baltimore, served as minority affairs aide to then-Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).
“Between our shared progressive vision for Maryland, my budget and finance mastery, and Luwanda’s economic development and community relations expertise, we’ve got a winning team,” Madaleno said.
In addition to her Statehouse service under O’Malley, Jenkins served as vice president of community relations and diversity at the Cordish Companies, an established Baltimore real estate development company. She was also an employee of Coppin State University in Baltimore, where she helped implement a university accountability plan.
First-time candidate Alec Ross, an Obama-era State Department official, bestselling author and entrepreneur, announced his selection of another fresh face – Silver Spring brewery owner and former Small Business Administration adviser Julie Verratti – to be his pick to succeed Boyd Rutherford (R) as Lieutenant Governor should the pair win the June 26 primary and the November general election. As he announced his decision, Ross, whose ties to the Baltimore area that date back to his service in Teach for America in the 1990s, sought to highlight the deep ties to Montgomery County that Verratti brings to the ticket.
“Julie and her wife Emily represent the essence of Maryland values including diversity, entrepreneurship and activism,” Ross said. “From growing up in Montgomery County to attending Montgomery College to starting her brewery in Silver Spring, I couldn’t be more excited to have someone of Julie’s background on my team.”
While Verratti is, like her top-of-the-ticket counterpart, a newcomer to electoral politics, she is not a stranger to the ways of government or business. As a SBA policy adviser, Verratti – who can also boast of White House experience gained as a presidential fellow – focused on aspects of implementing the Affordable Care Act, veterans’ entrepreneurship, women business owners and local economic development. She became a small-business owner herself in 2014 when she co-founded Denizens Brewing Co. in Silver Spring, and has since been elected to a seat on the board of directors for the National Brewers Association in addition to the seat on the board of the Brewers Association of Maryland that she currently holds. She has a law degree from George Washington University.
Todd Eberly, a St. Mary’s College political science professor who recently co-wrote the book, “Polarized: The Rise of Ideology in American Politics,” said both running mates will help to balance the ticket in the state.
“The first rule in picking a running mate is to find someone who causes no harm,” Eberly said in an email response. “Both picks check that box. Then you look for a running mate who can help in some important way. In Maryland, a balance between the Baltimore and DC suburbs has long been important. Both candidates check that box. Beyond those first two requirements, the reasons for picking someone opens up a bit. Jenkins brings experience, connections to Baltimore, the Democratic establishment, and the business community - that’s an impressive trifecta. Veratti is an interesting choice in that neither Ross nor Jenkins have electoral experience. Both are self-made success stories in the private sector - a combo that one would think would be more appealing to Independent or Republican voters.”
Ross and Madaleno are the third and fourth of the seven major Democratic gubernatorial candidates to have announced running mates.
Former NAACP President Ben Jealous selected Susan Turnbull, the former Maryland Democratic Party Chairwoman who is a resident of Bethesda. Baltimore attorney Jim Shea selected Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker has the backing of Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and 6th Congressional District candidate David Trone, but has yet to name a running mate.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamentz and former Michelle Obama adviser Krish Vignarajah have yet to select running mates, but have until the Feb. 27 candidacy filing deadline to do so.