Krishanti Vignarajah’s gubernatorial ad is all about electing a woman

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Krishanti Vignarajah with her husband Collin O’Mara and their baby girl Alana. (Courtesy: krishformaryland.com)

Maryland’s only female gubernatorial candidate released a campaign video Wednesday that shows her nursing her 9-month-old daughter and claims that states with female leaders have “better schools, better health care and lower incarceration rates.”

“Some people say no man can beat Larry Hogan,” says Krishanti Vignarajah, referring to the Republican governor whose high approval ratings have made him a favorite to win a second term in November. “Well, I’m no man. I’m a mom, I’m a woman, and I want to be your next governor.”

Vignarajah, one of eight Democrats competing in the June 26 primary, said she made a conscious decision to use several images of her breast-feeding Alana in the YouTube ad, titled “A Mother’s Promise.”

“It was no accident. It’s my life,” she said.

To back up her claim about better policy outcomes, her campaign cited several news articles and studies that make the case that teams with women in leadership outperform male-only-led enterprises and that governments led by women enact policies that are better for women and families. Public health spending goes up when women lead, said a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. An academic study published by the Section on Intergovernmental Administration and Management’s State and Local Government Review said female governors pay more attention to social welfare policies than their male counterparts.

In the ad, Vignarajah — a former policy director for Michelle Obama who has proposed policies to address sexual assault and harassment, paid family leave, and improving gender equity — points out that no woman currently holds a statewide elected position in Maryland. The 2016 retirement of Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D), and the departure from office of Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D), who lost her bid for Mikulski’s seat, left the state without a woman in its congressional delegation for the first time in 77 years.

But the number of women seeking office in Maryland has roughly doubled this year compared with 2014, part of a national wave of female candidates that includes the election of more than a dozen women to the Virginia General Assembly in November.

Vignarajah came to the United States from Sri Lanka with her parents when she was 9 months old. She has selected former Baltimore Teachers Union president Sharon Blake, who is African American, as her running mate, creating the first all-female gubernatorial ticket in Maryland since 1994 and the first in state history to include two women of color.