Valerie Ervin, Kamenetz's running mate, will run for Maryland governor in his place

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    The running mate of a Maryland gubernatorial candidate who died suddenly last week announced shortly before a Thursday deadline that she will run for governor in his place.

    Valerie Ervin had three options: Run herself in a crowded Democratic primary, choose someone else to lead the ticket or scrap the campaign altogether. With a 5 p.m. Thursday deadline looming, Ervin, a former member of the Montgomery County Council, chose to pick a running mate and compete herself.

    RELATED: Baltimore Co. Executive and Md. gubernatorial candidate Kevin Kamenetz dies at 60

    "I believe in a Maryland where working families come before corporate profits, where we help every kid achieve their full potential, and we all can thrive regardless of where we were born, the color of our skin, or the size of our bank account," Ervin said in a statement announcing her candidacy.

    She chose Marisol Johnson as her running mate, describing her as an immigrant from El Salvador who owns a small business, was a former Baltimore County school board member, and is a mother of four.

    Evrin is now one of seven candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the June primary to oppose Republican Gov. Larry Hogan this fall.

    Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker and former NAACP head Ben Jealous are among those seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Hogan, the popular Republican incumbent.

    Before Thursday's announcement, Ervin gave no hint as to whether she might take over the top of the ticket or make another decision following the death of Kevin Kamenetz. Maryland's political landscape was redrawn last week with his sudden death from cardiac arrest. Just 60, trim, and health conscious, Kamenetz's death shocked everyone in the state's political circles.

    The political leader of populous Baltimore County, Kamenetz was widely perceived as one of the top three Democratic contenders in the race. With a $2 million war chest, he certainly had the most money of any Democratic hopeful.

    Donald Norris, a political analyst and professor emeritus of public policy at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, described the sudden death of a major candidate weeks before a primary as "unprecedented" in state politics.

    "I don't recall anything like this at any level, but certainly not at the level of the governor or any statewide office," Norris said Thursday.

    In recent days, some Democrats have publicly urged Ervin to choose a running mate and keep the campaign moving as the gubernatorial candidate.

    Donna Edwards, a former Democratic Maryland congresswoman and a candidate for Prince George's county executive, recently tweeted her support for Ervin as governor, saying "there's no one better to carry on Kevin's legacy."

    The Democratic primary is June 26.

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