A funny thing happened to former State Delegate Aruna Miller last October as she and her husband were on their way to visit their alma mater, Missouri University of Science and Technology: Aruna got a text that started her on the path to running for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. The text came from Wes Moore’s gubernatorial campaign, and it led Aruna and her husband, Dave, to a meeting with Moore in Baltimore.
It turns out Moore, an Army veteran who had led soldiers into combat in Afghanistan before going on to a career as a best-selling author and CEO of one of the nation’s largest poverty-fighting organizations, had been hearing a lot about Aruna. He had heard about her focus on empathy, commitment to service, technology, building bridges, and making our government work for the people.
The text came at a time when Miller was thinking about what the next step would be in her career in public service. She had run in the Democratic primary for the 6th Congressional District in 2018, winning Montgomery County and finishing second in the 7-person field. That race came after she had represented District 15 in the Maryland General Assembly House of Delegates from 2011-to 2019. During those eight years, Aruna passed legislation to provide greater protection for victims of domestic abuse; provide tax relief for small businesses, and ensure all Maryland public high schools provide courses in computer science. Aruna had begun her career in Los Angeles in 1989, when, with her BS in Civil Engineering, she took a job with the Los Angeles Department of Public works. From there, she moved back East to a job with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. It was here, in Maryland, where she got her first taste of public service.
Aruna says that until she got that text from the Moore campaign, she had not thought about running for Lieutenant Governor. But after her 45-minute meeting with Moore, she says she had a gut feeling that “Oh my gosh, he’s going to be the next Governor of Maryland.” Aruna and Dave had found Moore to be “sincere, authentic, empathetic and humble – exactly the kind of representative we’d like to have.” Talks continued between Aruna and the campaign and Moore himself. But she was still not sure where things stood. “What exactly is he asking me?” she thought. That question was answered not long after when during a Zoom call, Moore formally asked Aruna to be his running mate, and she accepted.
For Aruna Miller, joining the campaign as Lieutenant Governor would be the latest action of her personal commitment to giving back to the country she loves. It’s the country that took her in as a young girl and has given her chances she never would’ve had in her native India. She arrived in the United States when she was seven years old. Her first memory is of walking off the plane in New York City and gazing in wonder at what she thought was white confetti falling from the sky. She had never seen snow before, thought it was happening to celebrate her arrival in America, and that it was just magical.
The magic of America didn’t fade for Aruna. From the public school teachers who helped her learn English and feel welcome in her new home, to the Pell Grants, scholarships, and work-study programs that enabled her to pay for college and earn her civil engineering degree, she benefitted from the generosity and kindness of her adopted home. And that experience has shaped her commitment to public service and people’s needs. “I want to give back in every way possible to a country that has given me so much,” she says.
Aruna Miller is also the rare type of politician who engages those on the other side of the aisle and puts herself in front of people who disagree with her in order to start a dialogue and find common ground. A great example of this was when her husband accidentally put a campaign sign in the yard of a Republican constituent who wasn’t supporting her. When her office received a call complaining about the sign, Aruna went to the house, knocked on the door, and proceeded to have an engaging discussion with the family who, it turned out, actually agreed with her on some points. They have supported her ever since.
Aruna knows that if she becomes Maryland’s Lieutenant Governor, she will have a whole new set of opportunities and challenges. But she knows it’s worth the hard work, that her volunteers are awesome and inspiring, and that she has the chance to do more good for even more people in Maryland. As a partner in the Moore-Miller Administration, Aruna will bring the positive change to the state’s leadership that’s she brought to every other position she previously held. If her story inspires you, and you’d like to make a contribution or volunteer for the Moore-Miller campaign, visit Moore Miller for Maryland.
By: H. Schoenholtz, Retired Broadcast Journalist