The Gazette: In her gubernatorial bid, Mizeur hopes ‘to blow the doors off’

Six silver frames hang on a wall in Heather R. Mizeur’s tucked-away Silver Spring campaign office. Each holds a dozen or more campaign buttons that Mizeur, 41, has collected since she was in second grade.

“This is just some of them. I actually have a lot more,” she said.

Across the room hangs a symbol similar to those on the buttons. It says: Heather Mizeur Governor, signifying her bid for the state’s top office in next year’s primary and general election.

A member of the House of Delegates from District 20, Mizeur has forged a campaign on progressive values, proposing to expand early childhood education; legalize, regulate and tax marijuana; that cut taxes for most Marylanders; and increase the minimum wage to a higher “living wage.”

“I’m not going in there to get re-elected in four years. I’m going in there to blow the doors off the place and bring about strong, meaningful reform,” she said.

Mizeur’s path to politics began early.

At age 9, she stood on the picket lines during a strike with her father, who was a United Auto Workers member and welder at a Caterpillar factory in the farming community of Blue Mound, Ill., where she was raised.

“It was the first time where I had an opportunity to really see what it meant to have the courage of your convictions, to stand in solidarity, to fight for something you believed in,” she said.

Her parents and younger sister still live in Blue Mound, she said.

While attending the University of Illinois, Mizeur worked part-time for U.S. Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (D-Pa.) and was offered a full-time, senior level job in the congresswoman’s office.

“This once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity came along in Marjorie’s office that I couldn’t turn down,” Mizeur said. She briefly considered saying no and returning to school, but changed her mind.

Mizeur never finished her undergraduate degree. Instead, she built a career in politics and policy.

On Capitol Hill, she worked for Margolies-Mezvinsky, for U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and as legislative director for U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-Mass.).

She also was domestic policy director for Sen. John Kerry (D), helping write Kerry’s health care platform for the 2004 presidential election. She ran Kerry’s presidential campaign in Maryland.

Mizeur also spent time in the private sector, working for the National Association of Community Health Centers as director of state affairs and for the law firm of K&L Gates. Most recently, she and her wife Deborah started a health care and policy firm, The Mizeur Group. Deborah Mizeur is a clinical herbalist and nutritionist.

Heather, who is a fifth-generation farmer, and Deborah own a 34-acre farm in Chestertown. They have a rescue dog, Chester.

Mizeur’s career in office began in 2003, when she was elected to the Takoma Park City Council. She was elected to the Maryland House in 2006.

In the seven years Mizeur has served in the House, she has worked on education, health care and social reforms.

“I start with always listening to my heart,” she said. “That has always been my North Star. It is what guided me into this race to give people a different choice, a different option and an ability to end politics as usual.”

Mizeur said she is not running for governor for the title; she wants to do the job.

Martin O’Malley is finishing his second four-year term and is prohibited from seeking a third.

Mizeur knew a crowded field would be vying for the Democratic nomination, but she said her experience, values and success match up against any one in the race.

So far, four other Democrats are running: Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, Ralph Jaffe and Charles U. Smith.

Referring to the two most-known candidates, Gansler and Brown, Mizeur said she had ground to make up from the get-go, introducing herself to voters and talking about what she believes.

“For a while, people didn’t know that they had another option,” she said. “Now, the message of the campaign is being carried not just by our campaign, but by this growing, energetic, excited movement of people that are exponentially spreading our message, growing our support and increasing our likelihood that we’re going to be the campaign that wins in June.”

Running a positive, issue-oriented race, Mizeur said, she has put 30,000 miles on her Chevrolet Volt, traveling from Ocean City on the Eastern Shore to Oakland in Garrett County, and in between, to talk with Marylanders.

Mizeur chose the Rev. Delman Coates, a minister from Prince George’s County, as her running mate.

“He is not someone who’s just been a community leader on Sundays at his church,” she said. “His whole life’s work has been about community engagement, about civil rights, justice and equality.”

Mizeur said she opted to publicly finance her campaign.

The Washington Post reported that Mizeur could qualify for more than $1 million in state funds next year if she agrees not to spend more than roughly $2.5 million on her primary campaign.

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