The 25 women who showed up in Bethesda on Sunday to chat with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur are likely among her most solid and enthusiastic supporters.
Yet even some of them wondered how the state delegate from Takoma Park, widely viewed as a longshot third candidate, would break through the near constant talk about two better known and better financed opponents — Attorney General Doug Gansler and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.
A few asked Mizeur, seeking to become the state’s first female and first openly gay governor, about her electability facing two candidates with more name recognition and bigger campaign bank rolls.
“What we are doing here is really waking people up. We have sort of been sleeping for a long time under a scenario where, ‘Well, this is how it always is.’ You get a choice between this guy or that guy who’s next in line, who spent seven years building a war chest and political favors and endorsements to guarantee that they’re going to be the ones to protect the status quo,” Mizeur said. “And a candidate like me is supposed to look at their advantages and never be willing to get in the race, because everyone says it can’t be done. …Am I allowed to say that I have both a better message and am a better messenger?”
The event on Sunday, at the Bethesda home of a supporter, was promoted as a Women’s Policy Roundtable and Mizeur talked about her proposals for paid family leave and for closing the gender pay gap in Maryland, especially among minorities.
Mizeur has proposed legalizing marijuana, creating an independent commission to take care of redistricting, raising the minimum wage to $16.70 an hour by 2022 and reinstating the state’s millionaire’s tax.
The former Congressional aide and political consultant likely would have trailed Brown and Gansler in campaign fundraising and chose to accept public financing — the first gubernatorial candidate since 1994 to make that choice. The public financing option will effectively limit her primary spending at about $2.5 million.
Both Brown and Gansler are expected to spend much more. But Mizeur said she expects those two to continue beating up on each other as the primary continues and cited improving polling numbers and a 40 percent undecided voter rate as ways her campaign is already making progress.
“Up until now, we have been conserving all of our resources to be able to go up on the air toward the end of the campaign when more people become interested. With very little expenditure of those resources, we are narrowing that gap,” Mizeur said. “The old playbook that says you need $7-$10 million to win a race like this is in a scenario where the voters are unengaged, disinterested and you’re having to force yourself into their living rooms and shove your message down their throat. Instead, we are inspiring people.”