February 19, 2018 at 12:01 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Md. gubernatorial candidate chooses lesbian running mate

Julie Verratti co-founded Denizens Brewing Co. in Silver Spring, Md., with her wife, Emily Bruno, and her brother-in-law. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Ensign/Alec Ross for Governor)

A Maryland gubernatorial candidate has chosen a lesbian business owner as his running mate.

Democrat Alec Ross on Monday officially announced that Julie Verratti has joined his ticket.

Verratti co-founded Denizens Brewing Co. in Silver Spring with her wife, Emily Bruno, and her brother-in-law. A bio that Ross’ campaign provided to the Washington Blade notes Verratti was a fellow and senior policy advisor for the U.S. Small Business Administration who focused on the Affordable Care Act, women’s entrepreneurship and other issues.

Verratti last year was a member of a task force that studied the overhaul of Maryland’s alcohol laws. She also worked for Equality Maryland, which is now known as FreeState Justice, the Human Rights Campaign and other social justice organizations when she was a student at the George Washington University Law School.

Verratti, who is from Silver Spring, worked for the Boston-based MassEquality from 2005-2007.

She has never run for political office. Verratti would become Maryland’s first out lieutenant governor if she and Ross are elected in November.

“I feel good about it,” Verratti told the Washington Blade last week during a telephone interview with Ross. “Obviously when you’re doing something for the very first time, it’s scary.”

“I also think it’s really important,” added Verratti. “Representation matters and it matters tremendously. I’m proud and honored.”

Alec Ross, right, has chosen Julie Verratti as his running mate. Verratti co-founded Denizens Brewing Co. in Silver Spring, Md., with her wife, Emily Bruno. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Ensign/Alec Ross for Governor)

Ross was a senior State Department official during the Obama administration.

He founded One Economy, a nonprofit organization that his campaign bio says “helped deliver high-speech Internet access, educational content and education to low-income communities.” Ross is also a former public school teacher in Baltimore City.

Ross told the Blade he first met Verratti last September at a Democratic Business Council of Maryland meeting that was taking place at a Rockville. Ross said the audience was 80 to 90 percent “men in ties.”

“There was this woman asking these incredibly sharp questions and making these incredible observations in a leather jacket,” said Ross. “She really stood out in that ballroom in a Rockville hotel.”

Ross also told the Blade in response to a question about the history his ticket would make in November if it is elected that he wishes “we were making history long ago.”

“We need to make it now,” he said. “Julie has abundant attributes as a business leader, as someone who has achieved in government. With Donald Trump’s Washington, I want it to be the case that (it) says welcome to Maryland, you’re entering a business and you’re entering a place that’s mirroring the opposite values of Donald Trump’s Washington.”

Verratti: Ross is ‘best person for the job’

Ross will face off against former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous; Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker; Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz; state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County); lawyer Jim Shea and Krishanti Vignarajah, who was former first lady Michelle Obama’s policy director, in the June Democratic primary. The winner will run against Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in the general election.

Shea last week announced Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott is his running mate.

Madaleno could become the first openly gay man elected governor in the U.S. if he were to win. The Montgomery County Democrat, who is accepting public financing, last month reported his gubernatorial campaign has thus far raised $439,862.

Ross is among the Democratic candidates who have raised more than $1 million.

“The campaign’s going really well,” Ross told the Blade. “Julie’s addition will make it even more distinct.”

He added the campaign is “running statewide.”

“We are running in all 24 jurisdictions in Maryland, running for governor for all of our state’s citizens with progressive values,” said Ross, referring to the state’s 23 counties and Baltimore City.

Verratti stressed she is honored that Ross has chosen her as his running mate.

“Alec is the best person for the job and has a tremendous background,” Verratti told the Blade. “His leadership is transformative.”

From left: Julie Verratti with her wife, Emily Bruno, outside Denizens Brewing Co. in Silver Spring, Md. (Daniel Ensign/Alec Ross for Governor)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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