by Benn Ray
Yesterday, I voted for Heather Mizeur.
I urged friends to vote for Heather Mizeur.
Given the opportunity, I would vote for Heather Mizeur again. And I hope I get that opportunity.
The Annapolis "wisdom" (is that the local equivalent of "Beltway Wisdom"?) was that as a Maryland Democratic gubernatorial primary candidate, she didn't really have a chance -that she was just "too out there for the mainstream," which I suspect is homophobic code.
She was just too liberal, the establishment would have it, but I'm not sure why. She wasn't calling for forced unions in all workplaces or mandatory abortions or taking eveyone's guns away or whatever it is mythical, extremist liberals are supposed to think that scares the so-called "mainstream".
But I wasn't completely sold she couldn't do it.
For a brief moment, after the Cantor/Brat fiasco in Virginia, for just a sweet, tiny, wee, little moment, I thought maybe anything was possible.
Out of all the Democratic gubernatorial candidates, the only one who bothered to take the time to speak to me was Mizeur. She came my place of business (largely because she wanted access to the Hampden Village Merchants Association - an organization I'm proud to be the President of, but sadly, the HVMA doesn't exist to offer access to people running for office), and despite me not being able to help her in the way she wanted, she still talked to me for a few minutes, listened to my concerns, and I liked her. I knew I was voting for her right away, I just didn't know HOW I was for her. Would I work for her the way I have other candidates? Would I try to persuade others? Would I endeavor to rally the vote? Or would I just show up and vote for her? I mean, I have a lot on my plate (don't we all these days).
But when Mizeur selected Prince George's County Pastor Delman Coates as her running mate, I had my answer. In a projected, low-voter turnout election, her winning would would depend on getting out the vote - and after her selection of a running mate, I was only so comfortable spending my time to work to get her elected. And if, as a progressive, she dampened my enthusiasm, it seemed reasonable to assume she did the same to others.
It was more than me being a staunch believer in the separation of church and state and not being comfortable helping to elect religious leaders to public office, regardless of how progressive those leaders might be (but to be perfectly honest, that was a not insignifcant part of it). I'm not saying I would vote against all religious leaders for office, but when their bona fides for being #2 in line behind the governor is bascially just being the Pastor of some megachurch in the county - I can't help but think a better running mate was out there somewhere.
But more importantly, her choice also struck me as calculated, cynical, and just plain wrong, See, Mizeur is gay. And there are a whole lot of "religous" people in Maryland who still may not be comfortable voting for a gay person. So if she has a religous leader running with her, the flawed strategy goes, those bigots might feel more comfortable voting for her. This never works.
The problem is that the people who are going to hate Mizeur for being gay are not going to temper that hate because she's running with Coates. People don't usually vote FOR the running mate, regardless of who it is - at least not enough to win elections.
People are, however, sometimes turned off by a running mate. (Just ask John McCain.)
If voters feel the running mate was a bad choice, it makes them wonder about the capacity of the candidate to make wise decisions on important things. And in my case, while it didn't stop me voting for the ticket, it also didn't inspire me to jump aboard the Mizeur train whole-heartedly (although I did more rallying than I thought I would) and actively campaign for her.
I'm confused as to why Maryland candidates for governor select running mates in advance of the primaries anyway. Wouldn't it make sense to go through the primaries and then select running mates after the votes are tallied, perhaps to build bridges, form coalitions, etc?
But I didn't nag people to vote for Heather like I could have. I didn't do all I could to urge, plead, or beg people to vote for Mizeur. The most I did was let people know via social media how I was voting and encouraged them to do the same (and most let me know they were voting the same way). And I forwarded a few links. And one on one, I told people who I was voting for and why, and tried to convince them to do the same. I simply wasn't comfortable doing all I could to get the candidate I liked elected. I don't mean that my efforts could have gotten Mizeur elected, what I mean is that if I felt uncomfortable going all in with Heather because of her choice of running mate, there were probably others like me who felt that way too.
Regardless, for brief period of time yesterday, deep in my heart, I hoped Mizeur was able to inspire others in a way she didn't quite manage to inspire me.
By nature of the "Baltimore Bubble," it seemed possible. Everyone I spoke to who voted, to a person , all said they voted "Mizeur." And I let myself think for a moment, in a smaller version of the same way I feel that first minute I buy a Powerball ticket, that anything is possible. That there are really only two ways things go, the way you want or another way - and given my poor math skills that means there's always a 50-50 shot.
Heather could have won, but she didn't.
Yes, I like her policies.
Yes, she sounded like the most reasonable Democrat running (as I said when I urged people to listen to this interview). In the context of the primary, Brown came off as an empty-suit, a non-entity. And Gansler - a spoiled county frat dude. And one of Gansler's field people (who looked too young to vote) tried to convince me that this was Bush/Gore/Nader all over again - I didn't want to know who he thought was Bush and who he thought was Gore. It was just too ludicrous to be lectured about Nader voting by someone too young to have been through it.
Heather has been the only politician I have heard who does more than just pay lip-service to small business - she acutally had a plan to help small businesses (similar to one I've been trying to get politicians to listen to for years). She wants to legalize pot (which, at this point, most of us see as an eventuality). She wants affordable education. She believes in a living wage and equal pay - all things reasonable, compassionate Marylanders should believe in.
That her pragmatism sounds "extreme" to some old Democrats is disheartening and indicative as to why many people (until recently, me included), prefer to remain "Independent" even though not being able to vote in Maryland Democratic primaries severely limits your participation in the electoral process.
But in the end, from my perspective, Heather lost because she made some bad decisions. Not decisions that chased me away, but not ones that inspired me either. Could she have won? Who knows. Could she have won the general? Who knows.
She had an opportunity to energize Maryland progressives in a way Virginia's Brat energized Tea Partiers. But instead, she comprompised, like so many liberals do, with a key decision, and she ended up paying for it.
I hope that Heather continues in local politics. I'd like the chance to vote for her again. But if a progressive is going to pull an upset, they need to try harder than that to motivate a cynical and exploited-feeling base.
I'm sorry, Heather Mizeur. I would have very much liked you to be our next governor.