In a bombshell interview recorded this past Sunday, Valerie Ervin revealed that former NAACP president Ben Jealous – one Ervin’s Democratic rivals in the race to replace Larry Hogan as Maryland’s governor – and his campaign manager, Travis Tazelaar, attempted to thwart Ervin from joining a gubernatorial ticket with the late Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.
“I was a little surprised by it. I wasn’t even on the Kamenetz ticket and Ben Jealous and his campaign manager were trying to keep me off the ticket before I decided,” Ervin, 61, told A Miner Detail Radio host Ryan Miner on Sunday evening during an online radio/podcast interview that was recorded at Ervin’s Silver Spring residence.
On February 22, Kamenetz announced that he selected Ervin, a former Montgomery County Council member, as his lieutenant governor running mate.
Kamenetz died suddenly on May 10 from cardiac arrest.
Ervin filed her candidacy paperwork last Thursday with the state Board of Elections to run in place of her former running mate and announced that she selected former Baltimore County school board member Marisol Johnson to join her gubernatorial ticket.
Ervin was the first African-American female elected to the Montgomery County Council – first in 2006 and re-elected in 2010. She represented Silver Spring’s District 5 on the council.
Having made the decision not to seek on a third term on the Montgomery County Council, Ervin told Miner that she resigned her council seat in December 2013 to become the executive director with the Center for Working Families, the advocacy wing of the progressive nonprofit group Working Families Party.
Six months before Ervin joined Kamenetz’s gubernatorial ticket, the Working Families Party announced that it would endorse Ben Jealous’ Democratic gubernatorial bid. Ervin was still the executive director of Working Families Party at the time Jealous was endorsed.
A Miner Detail reported on January 30 that Kamenetz was considering Ervin as his lieutenant governor. Ervin told Miner that shortly after A Miner Detail’s January 30 story broke, in which Miner reported that she was a leading contender to join the Kamenetz ticket, Ben Jealous and Tazelaar launched efforts to undercut her at Working Families.
Ervin told Miner Sunday, beginning at 42:22, that soon after Jealous learned that she was being considered to join Kamenetz’s Democratic gubernatorial ticket, Jealous contacted the Working Families national board chair, requesting Ervin send an email to the organization committing to not join Kamenetz’s gubernatorial team.
Ervin said she did not oblige Jealous’ request to sit out on joining a Maryland gubernatorial ticket. Two days later, Ervin said, she was told that she no longer had a job at Working Families.
Read (and listen) below the transcript of Miner’s Sunday-evening interview with Ervin:
ERVIN: How it happened it this: Travis Tazelaar, the campaign manager for Ben Jealous, got wind that I may be talking to Kevin. This was even before I said yes. And they set up some dummy URL, apparently with my face on them.
MINER: Was this the KamenetzErvin URL?
ERVIN: Yeah, I never saw them.
MINER: I remember Kevin told me at a forum in Montgomery County earlier this year – I think it was in January or February at the United for Maryland forum; it was right before he was going to make his announcement – and he said, I asked him ‘Do you know anything about this,’ and he said, “I don’t know anything about this, Ryan,’ and I said, ‘okay.’
ERVIN: You know how I found out? I found out because I called New York, and some folks up there researched it and called me back and said ‘yeah some guy named Travis Tazelaar bought up all the Valerie Ervin/Kamenetz names and they put up these two dummy sites.’ I never saw them.
ERVIN: I was a little surprised by it. I wasn’t even on the Kamenetz ticket and Ben Jealous and his campaign manager were trying to keep me off the ticket before I decided. So, a call came to me from a former colleague from Working Families; and they said Ben Jealous called the board chair – the national board chair – and asked me to basically send around an email indicating that I would not go on the ticket. And when I basically said, ‘well, I’m not going to do that.’ Two days later I was told, ‘well, you don’t have a job here.
ERVIN: He [Jealous] wanted me to like send around an email basically saying I would not – that Valerie Ervin is not going to, you know, join the Kamenetz ticket – or something to that effect. And my immediate response was, I’m not going to say exactly what I said because it’s – I’m not going to tell you exactly what I said – more or less not like ‘that’s not going to happen.’
MINER: Did you have a conversation with Ben at that time when you knew that was going down?
ERVIN: No, he was blowing up my phone. After that call came I decided that I wasn’t going to talk to him.
MINER: So you didn’t take the call?
Ben Jealous’ campaign has ignored A Miner Detail’s multiple requests for comment on Ervin’s remarks. Kevin Harris, Jealous’ communications director, was forwarded the link to Ervin’s interview; he has not responded.
When reached for comment on Monday, Working Families Party spokesman Joe Dinkin forwarded A Miner Detail a statement claiming that it was Ervin’s decision to leave the Working Families Party to run for Maryland lieutenant governor on the Kamenetz ticket.
Dinkin’s initial statement is below.
Working Families Party endorsed Ben Jealous last August. When a rumor first appeared on your blog this spring that Valerie Ervin was considering a run for Lt. Governor on another ticket, I asked if she would put out a statement to put the speculation to rest. She declined to do so.
Valerie was subsequently approached about joining the Kamenetz ticket. She chose to leave the staff of the Working Families Party in order to run for Lt. Governor. That was her decision alone. Needless to say, it would have been impossible for her to stay on our staff while also mounting a campaign against our endorsed candidate. She could have stayed with WFP, but in the end, she made the choice to leave and run for office instead.
Valerie’s first day was in January 2014, and her last was the day she announced her candidacy for Lt. Governor.
However, two emails forwarded to A Miner Detail by sources close to Working Families Party, written by Charly Carter, the former executive director of Maryland Working Families, directly contradict Dinkin’s statement that Ervin willingly left her job at Working Families to run for lieutenant governor.
Carter – who sources claim was terminated from Working Families for not “working hard enough for Ben Jealous” – wrote in a Feb. 20 email that the national Working Families Party terminated Ervin from her executive director job after learning that Ervin accepted Kamenetz’s invitation to join his gubernatorial ticket as his running mate.
In the same email, Carter also pointed out that Ben Jealous’ campaign team was pushing Working Families Party to fire Ervin after they learned she was in contention to join a Maryland Democratic gubernatorial ticket.
Carter’s Feb. 20 email is below.
Sources shared with A Miner Detail a second email written by Carter, addressed to Working Families Managing Director Mike Boland and sent on Feb. 21, expressing her “extreme disappointment” over the way in which the organization handled Ervin’s decision to join Kamenetz’s ticket.
Carter’s Feb. 21 email is below.
A Miner Detail’s Editor in Chief Ryan Miner again spoke to Working Families spokesman Joe Dinkin on Tuesday, May 22. Miner, in a phone call with Dinkin, questioned Dinkin about the seemingly conflicting statements – his initial statement sent to A Miner Detail on May 21 and the information contained inside the emails, apparently written by former Maryland Working Families Executive Director Charly Carter.
Dinkin grew combative after Miner asked several questions about Jealous’ role in Ervin’s departure from Working Families. He said he needed to end the call so he could attend an afternoon meeting. Dinkin agreed to follow up later in the afternoon with an additional statement, clarifying his original statement.
In his second statement, Dinkin denies and disputes that Ben Jealous “or any candidate” made “any demands on us relating to Valerie’s job.”
Dinkin’s second statement is below.
I want to make sure you understand this one fact: it would be impossible for Valerie to remain on our staff and also run for Lt. Gov at the same time.
First of all, because one of Valerie’s roles at WFP was to coordinate our political work in Maryland, including our support of Ben Jealous. It’s an obvious and massive conflict of interest to be running on an opposing ticket at the same time. There’s simply no way it would be appropriate to do both. Second, running for statewide office is a full-time job itself. The conflict of interest aside, it wouldn’t be possible to both run for office full-time and meet your obligations at work. And further, paying someone while they run for office could actually constitute an illegal campaign contribution.
Valerie knew fully the choice she was making. She could either stay on at WFP or she could leave to run for LG. But she couldn’t do both, for the reasons stated above. That binary choice was clear to everyone from the start, including Valerie. Sometimes politics is about choices, and she made the choice to leave the staff of the WFP to run for office instead. I find it hard to believe I have to explain why she couldn’t do both, and why, in announcing a run for office, she had to leave our staff. But that’s the honest truth, and no one but Valerie could make her decision for her.
On the question of dates: Valerie told us a few days before she announced that she had decided to run. Her last day on staff was the day she announced her candidacy.
On the question you asked about Jealous: WFP staff was working closely with the Jealous campaign and in touch all the time. But at no point did Ben Jealous or his campaign or any candidate make any demands on us relating to Valerie’s job. No candidate could ever tell us who can and can’t be on our staff. We wouldn’t accept it.
Last November, Jealous tapped longtime Democratic Party insider and fundraiser Susan W. Turnbull as his running mate. He is considered one of the leading candidates to win the Democratic nomination for Maryland governor.
In addition to Jealous and Ervin, the candidates running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination include: Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III; Baltimore attorney Jim Shea; Montgomery County state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr.; technology entrepreneur Alec Ross; former Michelle Obama policy director Krishanti Vignarajah; perennial candidate Ralph Jaffe; and James Jones.
The winner of the June 26 primary will take on popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in the November general election.