In a twist for this year’s crowded Democratic gubernatorial contest, a candidate has withdrawn from the race to back another contender.

In a media advisory last night, Rushern Baker’s campaign said former Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin is dropping out to endorse Baker. Ervin’s running mate Marisol Johnson, an ex-Baltimore County school board member, is also endorsing Baker.

The announcement lauded “the unmatched experience and passion of the Baker-Embry ticket”—Baker’s running mate is former Baltimore City mayoral candidate and prosecutor Elizabeth Embry—and called them “the right team to fight for the people of Maryland.”

The Washington Post first reported the news.

Ervin started off this gubernatorial race as running mate to the late Kevin Kamenetz, who was contending for the Democratic nomination when he died suddenly of cardiac arrest overnight in early May. A week later, Ervin kicked off her campaign.

Aside from having no access to Kamenetz’s campaign funds, and having had to rally enough support in only six weeks to best her eight competitors in the primary election, Ervin also faced the unique challenge of not being allowed to appear on the ballot. After Ervin’s announcement, the State Board of Elections said that it had already ordered the paper ballots, and it was too late to re-order them to include her name.

In lieu of having her name appear on paper, the board said all votes cast for Kamenetz would go to Ervin, and that polling staff would relay that to voters on primary election day.

The Montgomery County politician fought unsuccessfully in court to have her name added to the ballot. An Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge sided with the state elections board earlier this month, albeit while apologizing to Ervin for the ruling.

Ervin’s endorsement could rally even more support in the D.C. suburbs for Baker. The outgoing Prince George’s county executive is just barely leading former NAACP president Ben Jealous in a recent Gonzales Poll, and was trailing Jealous in another poll from The Post and the University of Maryland published earlier this month. Both surveys indicate Jealous is more favorable to Democratic voters in Baltimore and its suburbs, while Baker’s stronghold appears to be Montgomery and Prince George’s counties closer to D.C.

Ervin and Johnson will make their endorsement official this morning at an announcement in Langley Park. The pair will then join Baker and Embry for campaign stops in Baltimore and Silver Spring later on today.

The primary is set for June 26. Early voting begins June 21.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...