An Obama administration staffer declared herself a candidate for governor of Maryland, Aug. 9.

Krishanti Vignarajah, a foreign policy director to Michelle Obama and State Department advisor, is the first woman to actually declare her candidacy.

Krishanti Vignarajah, a former staffer to Michelle Obama, announced she is running for governor of Maryland. (Courtesy photo)

The candidate joins a field that includes Alec Ross, another Obama State Department official; Rushern L. Baker III, Prince George’s County executive; Richard Madaleno, Maryland state senator (18th District), and Benjamin Jealous, former NAACP president and CEO.

Kevin Kamenetz, Baltimore County executive, and Maya Rockeymoore, head of consulting firm Global Policy Solutions and wife of Elijah Cummings, have contemplated runs, but have not officially announced.

Vignarajah, a Sri Lankan immigrant, arrived in Baltimore with her parents in 1980 when she was 9 months old. Her parents were Baltimore City teachers. Her mother taught at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute; her father taught at Frederick Douglass high school among many others.

Working for the the president and the first lady was a “privilege” the candidate told the AFRO, and summarized their efforts as “investing in our future and, really, the next generation.”

She said watching as the federal and Maryland state administrations dismantled that work motivated her run.

“I’ve been especially troubled that many of the things that we were working so hard on in the White House Larry Hogan and Donald Trump have been seeking to undermine or reverse here in our state,” Vignarajah said, “whether it’s education, cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, or empowering women.”

Vignarajah also had specific criticisms for the current governor.

“I’m really running because program after program, project after project have been cancelled by Governor Hogan,” she said. “Everything from cancelling the Red Line, to budget cuts to education, and ignoring Baltimore until very recently.”

She told the AFRO that her unique identity represents the state at large.

“I am the only candidate in the field who is a woman, a minority, an immigrant and a mom, provides a unique perspective that will allow me to speak for all Marylanders. I think that is a real strength of my candidacy,” she said

Krishanti Vignarajah plans to formally announce her candidacy Sept. 19. A location has not yet been decided.