Former state department official Krish Vignarajah has joined the list of candidates running for governor of Maryland, becoming the first women to enter the race.
Previously serving as first lady Michelle Obama’s policy director, Vignarajah announced today that she’ll seek the Democratic nomination. She will formally launch her campaign on Sept. 19.
“I am running for governor because I am worried my daughter will not have the same opportunities my parents gave me when they brought our family here when I was a baby girl,” Vignarajah, 37, said in a statement. “I hope Marylanders will agree the best man for the job is a woman.”
While working for Obama in the White House, Vignarajah led the “Let Girls Learn” initiative, according to The Baltimore Sun. The initiative aims to address challenges blocking young girls from getting a quality education. Before that, she served under former Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry as a senior adviser.
As governor, Vignarajah said she would prioritize “improving schools, increasing wages, reducing crime, treating drug addiction, alleviating traffic, investing in infrastructure, and protecting our sacred environment,” her statement read.
Vignarajah’s eligibility to participate in the election has been questioned, the Sun reported Wednesday. Candidates must be a resident and a registered voter of the state for the five years before the election, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.
While she said she registered to vote in this state as early as she could, Vignarajah became a registered voter in Washington, D.C., in 2010, casting her last ballot there in 2014, The Sun reported. She said she voted in only one place at a time, according to The Sun.
She will face several Democrats who have announced gubernatorial bids, including Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, former NAACP President Ben Jealous, state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery), entrepreneur Alec Ross and Baltimore attorney Jim Shea.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has yet to launch a public re-election campaign. U.S. Rep. John Delaney, who was expected to challenge Hogan, has said he plans to run for president in the 2020 election.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Maya Rockeymoore Cummings — a Baltimore policy consultant who is married to U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings — are also considering joining the race, The Sun reported.
Senior staff writer Jessie Campisi contributed to this article.