An immigrant from Sri Lanka who previously worked in the State Department for both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, and worked in the White House for former first lady Michelle Obama, says she now wants to be a governor.
Krishanti Vignarajah posted an announcement Wednesday on her new campaign website, declaring her candidacy in the state of Maryland, and stating that her official campaign kick-off is scheduled for September 19, 2017.
“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. I hope Marylanders will agree the best man for the job is a woman,” Vignarajah wrote.
The new would-be governor immigrated to the United States from Sri Lanka with her family when she was only nine months old, was raised in Maryland, and is a graduate of Yale Law School.
Vignarajah, 37, is described as being the “powerhouse” behind Michelle Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” initiative, and served as the policy director for Ms. Obama.
Prior to her time in the White House, Vignarajah was a senior advisor at the State Department from October 2011 through May 2015, under former secretaries Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.
The Washington Speakers Bureau stated that during her time at the State Department, Vignarajah “helped shape White House and State Department initiatives and programs related to entrepreneurship, private sector investment, public-private partnerships, global women’s issues, public diplomacy, engagement with youth and religious communities, development strategies concerning health, food security and climate change, the UN and other multilateral institutions, and regional issues relating to Africa and the Middle East.”
Questions have already come to light about Vignarajah’s eligibility to run for governor over her voting record. The Bethesda Magazine reported Wednesday that Vignarajah has voted four times in Washington, D.C., while also being a registered voter in Maryland.
The Maryland state constitution states that a candidate for governor must have lived in the state and been a registered voter there for at least five years leading up to an election.
Bethesda Beat reported that, according to Tamara Robinson, with the D.C. elections board, anyone who registers to vote in D.C. must cancel their voter registration in any other jurisdictions.
“On our voter registration forms, a resident must check a box that says ‘I don’t claim voting residence outside of the District of Columbia,’” Robinson said.
The D.C. voter registration form specifically states, “If you sign this statement even though you know it is untrue, you can be convicted and fined up to $10,000 and/or jailed for up to five years.”
Vignarajah registered to vote in Maryland in 2006, and also registered to vote in D.C. on September 4, 2010, listing an address at a D.C. apartment building.
She reportedly voted in D.C. in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.
She voted in Maryland in the 2016 general election, according to the Bethesda Beat report.
A spokesman for Vignarajah, Steve Rabin claimed it’s no problem since she kept her residency in Maryland the whole time.
“Kris is a lifelong resident of Maryland,” Rabin said. “She was given the opportunity of her life to serve in the Obama administration. For a few years, while she was working in the State Department and the White House, she had a second residence in D.C., which is fairly typical for White House staffers because of the hours they have to work.”
Rabin said the reason Vignarajah voted in D.C. instead of her home state of Maryland is that “sometimes there are situations in the world that don’t allow a person to make an hour drive to Catonsville in the middle of the day.”
Vignarajah will be running against five other candidates in the primary for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, as well as others who have expressed an interest in running, according to The Hill:
They include Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker; Alec Ross, a tech entrepreneur and Obama State Department alum; Maryland state Sen. Richard Madaleno; attorney James Shea; and Ben Jealous, a former NAACP president who has the backing of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Others, including policy consultant Maya Rockeymoore, the wife of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), have expressed interest in running as well.
ABOUT SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is an island nation south of India in the Indian Ocean. Its diverse landscapes range from rainforest and arid plains to highlands and sandy beaches. It’s famed for its ancient Buddhist ruins, including the 5th-century citadel Sigiriya, with its palace and frescoes. The city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka’s ancient capital, has many ruins dating back more than 2,000 years.
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