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Photo of Julie Verratti and Emily Bruno by Darrow Montgomery

Denizens Brewing Co.‘s Julie Verratti wasn’t expecting the political plot twist that will land her on Maryland’s democratic gubernatorial primary ballot. Not even five weeks ago could she have predicted that Alec Ross would name her his running mate. “I had zero plans to run for office,” she says. “It was not in my trajectory. Not in my cards. But, I have lived my whole life trying to be of service and trying to say yes to everything.”

Both Ross and Verratti are new to running for office, but both held roles in Barack Obama‘s presidential administration. Verratti served as a presidential management fellow and senior advisor at the U.S. Small Business Administration. Ross worked a senior advisor to the Secretary of State and is currently a Baltimore-based author and entrepreneur.

Ross is confident in his choice because of Verratti’s executive branch experience, tipping his hat to her work of fostering entrepreneurship. He also admires her values. “Julie and her wife Emily [Bruno] are the essence of the values of diversity, entrepreneurship, and activism,” he says. “Julie is all about what’s next. I have a very future-focused campaign so I didn’t want a running mate that harkened back to yesterday.”

The running mates predict neighborhood-based, small local businesses will be the “backbone of tomorrow’s economy.” Ross says Denizens Brewing Co. sets a good example because of how the business has harmonized with the Silver Spring community. “We were there this weekend,” Ross says. A group called “Babies in Bars” was convening. “It was unreal. Half of the babies were sleeping, the other half were in carriers. There were a dozen dudes with little carriers and pint glasses. It was kind of awesome.”

Ross says the beer business is symbolic of much larger tension between small businesses and major conglomerates. “It’s easier to operate an Applebee’s than a family-owned restaurant,” he says. “I don’t want a Maryland of only conglomerates. I don’t want Coors and Applebee’s on every corner.” If elected, he hopes to pave an easier path to success for small businesses, including breweries, which have been in the headlines recently. “We can’t regulate small businesses the same way we regulate Fortune 500 companies.” 

“Of all the candidates in the race, Alec is the only person who is talking about the brewery laws happening in Maryland,” Verratti says, referring to House Bill 1052 and House Bill 518. “He’s shown that he understands that breweries are small businesses that should be cherished and celebrated.” Verratti serves on Comptroller Peter Franchot’s task force to examine state regulations of Maryland’s craft beer industry.

Ross and Verratti will be in Annapolis on Friday testifying. They both want House Bill 518 to pass. It’s a reform bill on the Tap Act of 2018. “If 518 passes, it will skyrocket breweries into the future and reduce barriers to entry and growth,” Verratti says. 

Ross’ campaign platform extends far beyond breweries to include education, election reform, infrastructure and transportation, and other major issues. And addition to bolstering small business interests, Verratti has been an active LGBTQ rights activist. She served as a former electoral and political organizer for Human Rights Campaign, Equality Maryland, and Equality Massachusetts.

“We are not your grandfather’s political candidates,” Ross says. “We look, we sound, we act, and we think like tomorrow’s politicians.”

His favorite Denizens beer is Lowest Lord ESB.

The winner of the June 26 Democratic primary will face Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R) in the general election.