The Diamondback: Getting big things done

Heather Mizeur discusses pioneering gubernatorial campaign with University of Maryland students

Del. Heather Mizeur didn’t have a conventional start to politics — she was never class president or treasurer of her Girl Scout troop. Instead, her first experience in the political realm came from fighting for fair wages on a picket line with her welder father in rural Illinois.

“We were living off of strike pay — very little money — and fighting for what we believed in,” said Mizeur (D-Montgomery). “It really taught me to take a stand on what’s important and what you believe in. When people come together, they can get big things done.”

This theme of cooperation and progress has been present throughout Mizeur’s political life — from her work in the Maryland General Assembly and the Takoma Park City Council to her experiences on Capitol Hill with John Kerry during his time as a Massachusetts senator. And at Mizeur’s first meeting with Terps for Mizeur — a student group formed to rally support for her campaign — she said she plans to bring that drive and persistence with her to work every day if elected governor this November. She’ll be running against Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler, among others.

Mizeur met with about 20 students Tuesday night in McKeldin Library to garner student support in her campaign for governor. If elected, she would become not only the first female governor in this state’s history but also the first openly gay governor elected in the country — two characteristics she said don’t even begin to define who she is.

At the meeting, Mizeur outlined what she saw as the biggest legislative successes she was a part of during her time as a member of the state’s House of Delegates — successes some students said helped shape their decisions to support her in the gubernatorial race.

Catherine Baker, a sophomore environmental science and policy and French major, said she appreciates Mizeur’s strong environmental stand against fracking.

“I’m from Garrett County, Md., where fracking is a very heated issue,” Baker said. “Sometimes it can feel like I’m drowning, fighting against all the people who support it. It’s a good feeling knowing that Heather is out there keeping people informed.”

Mizeur has supported a statewide moratorium on fracking and said the state should allow science to make the determination, adding she would be proud to be the “only state that could be drilling that’s not drilling.”

In addition to her environmentalist stance, Mizeur also partnered with tea party leaders in the state to pass family planning legislation in an effort to lower abortion rates in the state, when national political leaders were gridlocked over Planned Parenthood funding.

“I sat down with the leader of the state’s tea party and gave him this proposal: We’re going to lower abortion rates and save the state $20 million,” Mizeur said in her speech. “You know what, we can be on the opposite sides of reproductive choice but still agree to end unwanted pregnancies, empower women and break poverty cycles.”

Mizeur, a self-proclaimed “policy geek” harkening back to her days on Kerry’s domestic policy team, had a hand in several other legislative movements during her eight years in Annapolis. They range from the passage of the Kids First Act, which works to ensure children in the state have health insurance, to rallying to uphold state marriage equality legislation that went to referendum during the 2012 election.

Her passionate speech in support of gay marriage on the floor of the General Assembly in March 2011 went viral online and earned her national headlines.

Mizeur’s willingness to collaborate with people across party lines persuaded Alyson Lynch to pursue an internship with the Montgomery County delegate this semester.

“She’s enacted incredible change in the state,” said Lynch, a sophomore government and politics major. “She’s dedicated to causes and doesn’t back down, and that’s what we need in a governor.”

Although she’s not a Maryland native, Mizeur fell in love with the state, which she calls “the best place in the universe,” and stayed in the area after her time on Capitol Hill. After getting involved in local and state politics, she hopes to become leader of the state so she can “get things done.”

“Some people run for governor because they want the job. Other people run because they want to do the job. I’ve always been a ‘doer.’”

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