Heather Mizeur, the governor from Takoma Park?

BY LEJLA SARCEVIC

In a state where there is no shortage of talented Democrats it takes an openly gay female to shake up a gubernatorial primary. Between long hours on the road introducing herself to voters across the state and blunt statements about her political future, Mizeur has thrown herself into a long gubernatorial race that many say she’s unlikely to win. She hopes to prove them wrong.

Mizeur spent over a decade working on Capitol Hill as a domestic policy advisor to Senator John Kerry before, during and after his presidential bid. She took this experience and brought it to the Takoma Park City Council when she was elected in 2003.

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Mizeur (second from left) being sworn-in for her Ward 2 council seat, 2003, Takoma Park, MD

In 2006 she ran for Maryland’s House of Delegates and won her seat with 31 percent of the vote. As a member of Maryland’s lower house in the General Assembly, Mizeur represents District 20 in Montgomery County – covering Takoma Park, Silver Spring, White Oak and Hillandale.

She has been active in passing progressive legislation in Marlyand such as the Kids First Act which will provide health care to 100 000 minors who are eligible but not enrolled in public coverage.

The Takoma Park way

“The way that you campaign is the way that you will govern, and you can’t address all of the problems from behind a desk or over the phone,” said Mizeur in an exclusive Voice interview.

This attitude influences her campaign style as she travels across the state meeting voters at her volunteer run community events.

That’s the Takoma Park way, said Mizeur. ”We’re taking that spirit on the road out to every corner of the state and it’s getting a hugely popular response,” she said.

Maryland District 20 delegate and gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur, festival organizer Colleen Clay, and District 20 candidate Jonathan Shurberg.  Photo by Bill Brown.

Mizeur with festival organizer Colleen Clay (who followed Mizeur as Ward 2 city councilmember) and Jonathan Shurberg at this year’s Takoma Park Folk Festival. Photo by Bill Brown.

Mizeur’s most recent straw poll win came at the Takoma Park Folk Festival where she took 82 percent of the vote. Mizeur pointed to this as a sign of her immense popularity; but this is in the heart of her home turf.

If she loses?

Mizeur is taking a political risk by running. She must give up her General Assembly seat to run, and if she loses she’ll be out of a job. What will she do then?

This was the subject of an interview in the Washington Post. The reporter asked Mizeur if she is serious about running for governor, or if she is using the campaign to increase her profile. The reporter wanted to know if she was considering a cabinet position or a future run for something else if she didn’t win.

Mizeur told the reporter she is serious about her campaign for governor, and if she loses she has no other plans, that she would be out of politics.

As is common in politics, a small comment became an entirely new talking point as people read that as a declaration she would be out of politics forever. Mizeur said, “No way! Definitely not what that was about.”

Stand-out

What makes Mizeur a stand-out is her willingness to buck her party’s leadership. She was a strong opponent of Maryland Casino Gambling expansion. In a Washington Post op-ed she said that expanding casino gambling is not a pathway to economic prosperity.

Instead, said Mizeur, “Everybody has their ideas for economic development and job creation; everybody’s really interested in how these problems intersect.”

“It really does matter, right now, what socio-economic status your family is from, what is your gender, what is your skin color as a predictor of your success, and we have to eliminate that,” said Mizeur.

The future in mind

Mizeur says that Maryland must prepare for its economic future. It is estimated that in the next 5 years, Maryland will need to add 120,000 new healthcare professionals to its work force, said Mizeur.

“We have to continue to make sure that everyone has access to affordable higher education, that our curriculum is better aligned to market these job opportunities,” says Mizeur.

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To offer those opportunities Maryland must look to clearing the fifteen billion dollar backlog in school construction.

Endorsements

It’s these social justice reforms that have led to endorsements from Sonja Sohn, CEO of the Baltimore community initiative “ReWired for Change” and Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke.

Mizeur has also collected endorsements from Takoma Park City Council members, including Mayor Bruce Williams. However, her endorsements have been slow compared to that of Lt. Gov. Brown.

Paul Herrnson, Executive Director of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut, said that while endorsements can be helpful, Mizeur’s have been slow to roll in because she doesn’t hold state wide office and isn’t as visible as the other Democratic gubernatorial candidates Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler.

A lot can happen before next year’s June primary and by launching her campaign, Mizeur has ensured that Maryland voters have a diverse pool of candidates to choose from.

Herrnson said that he admires anyone who is willing to endure the long hours of the campaign trail and who is willing to throw their hat into the ring. Mizeur has certainly demonstrated a willingness to go that one extra mile and speak to one more voter.

About the Author

Lejla Sarcevic
Lejla is a master's student at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. She hails from Adelaide, South Australia and has a bachelor's degree in screen production from Flinders University. Lejla is interested in politics and public policy and the relationship between different levels of government.

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