Ten years ago, when she was serving on the Takoma Park City Council, Heather Mizeur helped to pass a resolution putting the city on record as supporting same-sex marriage.
At the time Mizeur, who is gay, described proudly liberal Takoma Park as a refuge; almost a protective bubble. Now, same sex marriage is legal throughout Maryland. “It has been remarkable to see the breakneck pace with which Maryland has evolved in issues of equality,” she said.
Mizeur wants to be Maryland’s next governor. And she believes the state is ready to elect someone with her liberal views on issues like legalizing marijuana and providing paid family leave. The two term delegate from Takoma Park is confident she can pull off the surprise, and win the Democratic Party’s nomination in June.
She argues that Maryland’s legislators are leading from behind. People are ready for change while Annapolis has a case of the slows. “We have allowed other states to take the first big progressive step,” Mizeur said. “And after they’ve proven it’s ok, we rally the troops to get it done in our state.”
Mizeur says that will change if she is elected governor. Maryland will lead the way in having a living wage tied to the rate of inflation, rather than just a minimum wage. Other initiatives in a Mizeur administration would include a paid family leave policy, universal pre-k education, including half days for some 3-year-olds, and marijuana legalized and taxed.
But getting her party’s nomination will not be easy. Mizeur’s opponents, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler are better known and have far more money to spend.
Nonetheless, Republicans say if Mizeur does manage to pull off a victory, they won’t be shut out of the halls of power. Kathy Szeliga, the House Republican whip, has served with Mizeur on the House Appropriatons Committee. Szeliga describes their relationship as respectful even though they disagree on many issues. “I know that she respects the views of others and wants to be inclusive,” Szeliga said. “She understands that my district from rural Baltimore and Harford Counties does not look like her district of Takoma Park.”
Mizeur grew up in Central Illinois, and cut her teeth in politics at her father’s side. He was a member of the United Auto Workers and worked 32 years as a welder. When Mizeur was nine, the union went on strike and her father took her to the picket lines. “And showed me first hand what it meant to have the courage of your convictions and how to stand up and fight for what you believe in,” she recalled.
When she was a junior at the University of Illinois, Mizeur landed an internship in Washington. While in D.C. she also got a part time job in a congressional office. That was the start of a 10-year career on Capitol Hill, including three years as U.S. Senator John Kerry’s domestic policy director.
It was during this time, in 2003, that Mizeur ran for a seat on the Takoma Park City Council. She won. Mayor Bruce Williams was at that time a city councilman along side Mizeur. He described her as having the “experience on working on the inside, but she also can be fairly independent and kind of, not necessarily go along to get along.”
Mizeur was first elected to the House in 2006 and re-elected in 2010. As she travels the state in her run for governor, she says people at times question her electability, but not because she is gay. Mizeur says her marriage to her wife Deborah doesn’t come up. “Case closed, we’ve moved on,” Mizeur says. “Maryland is an affirming, open state that respects everyone and wants them treated equally under the law and it’s a beautiful thing to witness.”