By Ryan Miner
Former Michelle Obama aide Krishanti Vignarajah released a statement on Wednesday that she plans to announce in September that she will officially become a Democratic candidate for Maryland governor.
Vignarajah’s gubernatorial rollout was seamless until questions began to arise about her voter registration and eligibility to be governor. The attacks didn’t necessarily emanate from Republicans – but rather, Democratic operatives working for opposing gubernatorial campaigns.
Andrew Metcalf of Bethesda Beat reported that Vignarajah, 37, who now lives in Gaithersburg with her husband and newborn daughter, voted four times in Washington, D.C. while also a registered Maryland voter. Metcalf reported Vignarajah didn’t vote in Maryland until the 2016 election, according to her Maryland voting record.
Vignarajah’s campaign spokesman Steve Rabin confirmed with Metcalf on Wednesday that Vignarajah voted in D.C. while working for the Obama White House and State Department, but she still maintained her residency in Maryland.
Rabin told Metcalf that questions about Vignarajah’s eligibility are being raised by “potential challengers.” Rubin, however, refrained from naming names.
(A Miner Detail was first to report that Vignarajah was mulling a 2018 Maryland gubernatorial bid after she spoke at a United Democratic Women of Maryland’s Saturday luncheon last month in Hagerstown, Md.)
After Vignarajah’s announcement, three staff aides who work for two different Democratic gubernatorial candidates spoke with A Miner Detail on the condition of anonymity. (A Miner Detail strongly encourages sources, candidates, and aides to go on the record, when possible.)
One Democratic campaign staffer claimed they were perplexed at Vignarajah’s decision to run for governor and knocked her for “having virtually no political footing or connections to Maryland politics.”
While complimentary of her background, education and policy experience with the Obama White House and State Department, another Democratic operative told A Miner Detail that Vignarajah’s bid would not be well received in Maryland Democratic circles and outright dismissed her as a political neophyte.
Another aide told A Miner Detail, “She apparently now lives in Gaithersburg and once lived in Baltimore County. She has a nonexistent political base. Rich Madaleno is going to crush her in Montgomery County and Kevin Kamenetz is going to wipe the floor with her in Baltimore County. It’s going to be ugly for her.”
In the same Bethesda Beat article, Metcalf went on to report Rabin’s statement comparing the questions over Vignarajah’s residency and eligibility to run for governor to the arguably racist attacks aimed former President Barack Obama over his birthplace.
Rabin told Metcalf:
We do think it’s disappointing that some Democrats in a primary are trying to bring Trump-style politics to Maryland and are trying to make the same sort of outlandish attacks that the president tried to make about President Obama’s birthplace.
Rabin’s Obama-Trump comparison hasn’t gone over well among some Maryland Democrats. Since the publication of Metcalf’s article, one prominent Democratic operative spoke to A Miner Detail on the condition of anonymity who said that Rabin’s Trump comparison is “disgustingly abhorrent and tenuous.”
The operative, who is an aide to a Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate, asked “Is Steve Rabin saying that anybody who questions Vignarajah’s eligibility to run for governor is on equal footing as Trump’s blatantly racist attacks against President Obama’s birthplace. He should immediately retract his comment and apologize to all Marylanders.”
A prominent Montgomery County Democratic activist also spoke with A Miner Detail today.
“How could Vignarajah be a ‘long-time’ Maryland resident and still vote in D.C. for the last four or five years? She’s clearly unqualified to run on multiple levels. It’s time to pull the plug.”
When reached for comment yesterday, Rabin fired back, telling A Miner Detail,
Krish is lifelong Marylander. Her parents brought her here when she was an infant. She was educated here. She was married here. She is going to raise her daughter here. Any attempt to suggest otherwise is just Trump-style politics. It’s a shame that political operatives who are tied to candidates choose to use the mask of anonymity to try to question whether or not Maryland voters should be given the opportunity to vote for somebody who is going to bring a fresh, new voice and new ideas to this race.
By law, Marylanders must meet the following criteria to run for governor:
- Must be 30 years old
- Must be a current Maryland resident; and
- Must be a registered Maryland voters for 5 years preceding the election
A source close to the Vignarajah added:
Krish is a Yale Law School educated attorney. Of course she checked this out before running. You have to ask yourself why political operatives call around and attack somebody the day they declare. They are clearly concerned that this person is going to win the primary.
Vignarajah is the first woman to join the growing list of Maryland Democrats who hope to take on Larry Hogan next fall.