The Maryland primary election is just a few weeks away, and I wanted to add my voice in strong support of State Delegate Heather Mizeur for Governor. She is not only the candidate that most embodies progressive values, she also has shown a streak of pragmatic leadership during her tenure in Annapolis. She is not a flamethrower, but a problem-solver; and one who happens to be more daring in her progressive policy proposals than almost any other candidate running nationwide.
The race for the Democratic nomination in Maryland is between three candidates: Mizeur, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown (the odds on favorite) and Attorney General Doug Gansler. I was able to cross off Gansler pretty quickly when making my decision as to who I would support. Gansler is sort of a bombastic type who frequently makes unforced (and frequently humorous) errors. In law school, we all had to learn about the time Gansler got in trouble for pre-trial publicity during the DC sniper case of the early-2000s. At the beginning of this campaign, a photo came out of Gansler standing around looking chill while a lot of underage drinking was clearly taking place around him. I don't really fault Gansler for these things, though I'd rather have a Governor who could avoid embarrassing him or herself and the state. My real problem with Gansler is that he is basically running as the Republican in the Democratic primary. In his campaign appearances, he mostly chastises the current administration for raising taxes on the wealthy that are "repelling businesses" away from Maryland, a refrain more common in GOP debates. In fact, unemployment in Maryland is quite low relative to the national average, and recently, our state's job growth has been better than our neighbor Virginia. Also, I know I'm not supposed to base my vote on things like this, but Gansler just rubs me the wrong way personally. He has a very bombastic personality that comes off as arrogant. He has been bizarrely negative toward the other candidates during the debates, even when he didn't have to be. So yeah, Gansler's a no.
The choice between Mizeur and Brown was a much closer one for me. Brown is the choice of the entire Democratic establishment, including Presidents Obama and Clinton, current Governor Martin O'Malley, and most of the state's Democratic Congressional delegation. Brown's story is inspiring. He grew up in a poor household, the son of immigrants, and rose to become a Harvard graduate. He then joined the Army and served in Iraq, where he earned a Bronze star. Oh, he also was serving in the Maryland House of Delegates while he was deployed overseas. Governor O'Malley chose Brown to be his running mate in 2006, and he has been the Lieutenant Governor ever since.
I like Brown, and I certainly admire his story. I think he would make a very good Governor. He's basically running for Martin O'Malley's 3rd term, and I have no problem with that. O'Malley has instituted some excellent progressive policies during his tenure. But Brown has a couple of flaws that make him an inferior candidate to Mizeur. First, he botched the execution of the Maryland Health Exchange. Brown was put in charge of Maryland Health Connection, the state exchange that was an absolute disaster. The State had to abandon its computer system and will use Connecticut's during the next open enrollment period. As a result, thousands of Marylanders will not have access to health insurance. I have no idea whether Brown's leadership role was more symbolic or whether he was really in charge of the day-to-day functioning of the exchange. Neither option reflects well on Brown. He either was completely negligent in overseeing the flawed exchange, or he screwed it up himself. When Democrats have a chance to implement groundbreaking progressive policy, they better not screw it up, because it gives that policy a bad name. Brown screwed it up, and he has no excuse.
Where Brown falls far short of Mizeur is in the boldness of his policy proposals. Mizeur is proposing a bold universal preschool program for all 4 year olds, and low-to-middle income 3 year olds. She is proposing the full legalization and taxation of Marijuana, with the proceeds going to offset middle class and small business tax cuts and education. She is an ardent opponent of fracking. She has specific proposals to increase enrollment in the state's Medicaid program for low-income Marylanders. Mizeur also doesn't just talk a good game; she made the most of her time as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. She sponsored and won passage of the "Kids First Act of 2008" which gave healthcare to over 100,000 children. She sponsored and won passage for a bill that would expand family planning services to women on Medicaid.
In contrast, Brown's proposals are generally good, but not particularly bold or groundbreaking. His pre-school plan does not extend to 3 year olds. He does not support the full legalization of marijuana. He is more of a Democratic standard-bearer, which would be fine if there wasn't a better option.
There is immense value in promoting a strong, progressive governing agenda. Not every item on the agenda is going to be enacted into law (though as Heather says, Marylanders don't get enough credit for how progressive they really are). Part of leadership is taking risks by proposing bold, new solutions to difficult problems. As Governor, Mizeur would show the rest of the country what true progressive governance would look like.
Mizeur was also instrumental in the fight for marriage equality, which resulted in the passage of the marriage equality bill in 2012 General Assembly session, and the ratification by the voters in that fall's election. I hesitated up to this point to mention that Mizeur would be the first openly gay Governor in our nation's history. Though I want to base my votes purely on vision and policy proposals, I can't help but be moved by the potential significance of having a gay governor. Diverse voices and experiences bring important perspectives into our national political conversation. I think Mizeur would be that voice for Maryland.
For all you Maryland Democratic voters, I hope you'll join me in voting for Delegate Heather Mizeur on June 24th!