SoMdNews: Mizeur promises to bring change in Maryland

Heather Mizeur, a state delegate in Montgomery County seeking the Democratic nomination in the race to be Maryland’s next governor, brought her promise of change last Friday to an audience at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

More than 100 people attended the gathering cosponsored by the Center for the Study of Democracy and the College Democrats, to hear the 41-year-old candidates’ views on health care, environmental issues and education funding.

“There are too many ‘say one thing, do another’ politicians,” Mizeur said. “I’m running for governor because I want to do the job.”

Mizeur, who worked for U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry as a domestic policy director when he was a senator, was elected to Maryland’s House of Delegates in 2007. She said her “Kids First” proposal found out through tax returns which children did not have health care coverage, which brought in extra federal funding to help meet those needs, and that working with Maryland Tea Party conservatives improved free family planning services that reduced abortions and infant mortality.

“We were willing to put partisanship on the shelf,” she said, “to make sure we made progress.”

On environmental issues, Mizeur said her actions have “put Maryland on a timeline to put a time-out” on potential “fracking” natural-gas extraction in the state to further explore its consequences. She has also been a leading voice in opposition to the $3.8 billion Cove Point project in Calvert County, which would enable the facility to export as well as import natural gas, making it the first such export facility on the East Coast. At the college she said the project would increase greenhouse gas emissions as it boosted corporate profits.

On Friday evening, Mizeur addressed a Sierra Club-sponsored gathering on her campaign. “Anybody who claims to be concerned with climate change can’t be in support of this project,” she said.

Bonnie Bick, environmental justice and Mattawoman campaign chairwoman for the Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club, called Mizeur “the political force against the conversion of ... Cove Point, and fracking in Maryland.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) appointed Mizeur in 2011 to a 15-member commission tasked with studying the effects of fracking. All permits to drill for natural gas in Western Maryland have been put on hold until the panel’s work is completed later this year. Mizeur pushed for an even stronger moratorium in 2012.

Supporters of the Cove Point project have pointed to the jobs and economic activity it would create. Like Mizeur, environmental groups have vehemently opposed the Cove Point expansion, claiming it would incite a proliferation of fracking projects by creating demand for exportable gas.

“It seems we’re off the cliff already in terms of climate change,” Bick said, noting that the methane gas released during fracking is worse for the atmosphere than carbon emissions. “We don’t want to cut off our fingers that are holding on.”

“There are better ways to put people to work, like rebuilding schools,” Mizeur said in Waldorf.

Mizeur laid out a 10-point plan for improving the state’s business climate, which includes tax cuts for 90 percent of Marylanders and small businesses paid for by the reinstitution of the state’s tax on the highest incomes and the closing of corporate tax loopholes. She also said the state could raise $175 million by legalizing and taxing marijuana.

Maryland needs to go beyond raising the minimum wage to creating a “living wage,” and improving early-childhood education, Mizeur said at St. Mary’s College, adding that those proposals could be funded in part by closing corporate tax loopholes, and ending marijuana-possession arrests, prosecutions and jail sentences that cost $280 million a year.

“This campaign is about changing everything,” she said, adding that her message is getting results.

“The other candidates are starting to fall behind,” she said. “All of a sudden, the polls are shifting. I’m going to blow the doors off the place, to make transformational change happen. It’s time to shake that status quo up.”

Once considered a dark-horse candidate running well behind fellow candidates Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D), Mizeur touted a recent Baltimore Sun poll that showed her running four points behind Gansler, but 25 points behind Brown. She said her chief challenge is making sure Democratic voters are aware of her candidacy in time for the June primary.

“When people know I’m in the race, they pick me,” she said.

Other Democratic candidates to succeed current Gov. Martin O’Malley include current Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler, Ralph Jaffe of Baltimore County and Charles U. Smith of Baltimore. Republican candidates include David R. Craig of Harford County, Larry Hogan of Anne Arundel County and Brian Charles Vaeth of Baltimore County. Shawn Quinn of Calvert County is running as a Libertarian Party candidate.

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