Your Public Radio > WYPR Archive
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
You are now viewing the WYPR Archive of content news. For the latest from WYPR, visit

How The Underdog Plans To Win Her Party's Nomination

Christopher Connelly



Delegate Heather Mizeur is considered a David between two Goliaths in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor. But she says she’s in it to win it, and she has the game plan to pull off an upset.

Mizeur seems unconcerned that her rivals, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler, are bigger names with bigger war chests than her’s. She says her secret weapon is an army of volunteers who are fired up by her candidacy. She calls it the fierce factor. “People really laying themselves on the line,” Mizeur says. “Their time, their talent, their treasure to make sure this happens outmatches every other campaign’s by an exponential factor.”

Mizeur says her message is attracting people. She’s calling for tax cuts for 90 percent of Marylanders and paying for it by establishing a millionaire’s tax. She also wants to legalize and tax marijuana, and use the money raised to help pay for early childhood education.

Mizeur is best known in Montgomery County where she has represented a district that centers on Takoma Park since 2007. But she says she has pockets of support throughout the state because she’s been working on regional issues for years. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s a woman, the only one in the race. Mizeur says women account for 62 percent of the primary vote. “There are a lot of ways that the math, the politics the issues come to bear that shows we have a real strong pathway to victory,” Mizeur says.

She points, for example, to the 2006 race for Maryland State Comptroller. Incumbent William Donald Schaefer went after Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens with a string of insults and she responded. “And who won that one? Peter Franchot,” Mizeur says. “The third alternative when you’re issue-based and you’ve got a positive approach will rise above the name calling and negative campaigning.”

But Donald Norris, the chairman of the public policy department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, says there is no way Mizeur can win the nomination. He says Mizeur, unlike Gansler and Brown, is an unknown in most of the state. And she doesn’t have the money to overcome that. “It is impossible in that situation,” he says, “going  up against two well known, well-funded candidates for her to win unless both candidates are in a head on collision with each other and they both die.”

“I certainly hope it doesn’t take the deaths of two of our statewide elected,” responded Joanna Belanger, Mizeur’s campaign manager. “We don’t wish that on anyone.”

In the last campaign finance report released last month, Mizeur had $750,000 on hand, compared to Brown’s $7 million and Gansler’s $6.3 million. Mizeur has decided to take public matching funds. So she has a spending cap of about two and a half million dollars for the primary. Belanger says that’s enough to get the job done. “We don’t need to have as much money as those other guys are going to spend,” Belanger says. “We just need to have enough to talk to our voters and we’re confident we’re going to have that and that’s how we’re going to win.”

For now, the Mizeur campaign is concentrating on the nitty gritty details … running phone banks, finding and training volunteers statewide and raising money.

Katie Hill, a spokeswoman for Gansler’s campaign, says the more voices in the race the better, but ultimately the voters will determine Mizeur’s viability. The Brown campaign did not return calls and emails asking for comment.