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Gubernatorial Hopeful Heather Mizeur: 'Obamalike' or Long Shot?

Or is her bid to become the first female openly gay governor 'between a long shot and a puncher's chance?'

Maryland Del. Heather Mizeur. Photo courtesy of Del. Heather Mizeur.
Maryland Del. Heather Mizeur. Photo courtesy of Del. Heather Mizeur.

By Adam Bednar

Del. Heather Mizeur is trying to become the first woman and first openly gay or lesbian person elected governor of Maryland. But she believes her proposals for improving schools and the economy are what really set her apart in the crowded race for the Democratic Party’s nomination.

"I believe strongly in transparency and going into the details. Voters deserve to know what we think, how we’re going to get it done, and what it looks like, what’s the impact going to be on [residents], not just slick campaign promises," Mizeur said in an interview.

During the past few weeks, Mizeur’s campaign has started to roll out various proposals laying out her vision.

Her education proposals include expanding access to pre-kindergarten and easing reliance on standardized tests that force teachers to "teach to the test." Although the campaigns of Attorney General Doug Gansler and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown have both said they support expanding pre-kindergarten, Mizeur’s plan goes into detail on how her administration would implement and pay for the proposal. 

"It’s a three-part plan that would expand pre-k for 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds, fix our childcare subsidies so that more families have access to affordable childcare options for their children and invest more heavily in after-school and summer programs," Mizeur said. 

Her campaign has also released detailed economic proposals, including a plan for adjusting the state’s income tax rates and raising the minimum wage to $16.70 an hour by 2022. 

"When we put more money in the hands of middle class families through increased wages, and fewer taxes, that money gets spent right back in the economy," she said.

But Mizeur, of Montgomery County, faces several challenges in her run for governor, including the fact that she’s one of the least-known candidates seeking the office.

According to a Goucher College poll released last week, she has the lowest name recognition of any candidate in the race. She’s also trying to defeat two candidates who have both previously won statewide elections.

Herb Smith, professor of political science at McDaniel College, said Mizeur faces a tough test, but he added that after Harry Hughes was elected in governor in 1978 he never writes off a candidate. 

"I put her between a long shot and a puncher's chance if you had to handicap it right now," Smith said   

But Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, the first woman elected city council president of Baltimore and one of the first elected officials to endorse Mizeur’s candidacy, said she believes the delegate has what it takes to pull off the upset.

"First of all, she and her group are experienced at electioneering and campaigning, and I expect her to rise up and walk down the middle of all these guys," Clarke said.

She also called Mizeur’s campaign "Obamalike" in its grassroots outreach, and said the evidence of that was at a meet-and-greet Mizeur attended on Saturday in Baltimore. 

"I looked around the crowd and it was the kind of crowd that elects people—especially in primaries," Clarke said. 

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