Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery Co.), a gubernatorial candidate from Maryland seeking to become the first woman governor of the Free State and the first out lesbian governor in the country, won the Progressive Neighbors Straw Poll at the Takoma Park Folk Festival at Takoma Park Middle School on Sunday, and racked up three separate endorsements from elected officials and community leaders in key vote-rich areas.
Mizeur, whose district covers Takoma Park and Silver Spring, won the gubernatorial straw poll on her home turf easily, earning 167 votes, or 82 percent of all votes cast, compared to 23 votes for Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and 14 votes for Attorney General Doug Gansler. Progressive Neighbors is a grassroots organization of local activists who support progressive causes like universal health care, affordable housing, public transportation, environmental protection, equality and campaign finance reform, meaning most poll respondents would have more liberal leanings on policy issues.
Following her victory in the poll, Mizeur’s campaign touted the result in a press release, saying the candidate “continues to pick up early strength.”
The release from Mizeur’s campaign also touted the endorsement of Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (D-14), the first woman to serve as president of the Baltimore City Council from 1987 to 1995 and a longtime advocate for education and economic fairness. Clarke was the lead sponsor on the nation’s first “Living Wage” law, which was enacted in 1994, and a cosponsor, along with former Councilmember Kweisi Mfume, later a U.S. congressman, of the first Charter amendment aimed at reducing class sizes in Baltimore Public Schools in 1982.
“Thank you Delegate Mizeur for having the courage to get into the race for governor and giving us an exciting choice,” Clarke said when announcing her endorsement at a Mizeur campaign “meet-and-greet” event in Baltimore Sunday. “Your leadership and values are exactly what Maryland needs at this time and I’m proud to support you in this race.”
Mizeur also won an endorsement from Sonja Sohn, an actress known for her role as Detective Kim Greggs in the HBO show The Wire and the founder and CEO of reWIRED for Change, an outreach program in Baltimore City that seeks to rehabilitate at-risk youth who have been involved in criminal activity.
Mizeur’s third endorsement came from the Rev. Delman Coates, the senior pastor at the 8,000-member Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., and one of the religious leaders who helped advocate for the passage of Question 6 in 2012, which legalized marriage equality in Maryland by popular vote. Mizeur and Coates worked together on Question 6 and also in a failed attempt to defeat Question 7, a ballot initiative that expanded gambling at National Harbor.
Sunday’s endorsements come a week after six of the seven current members of the Takoma Park City Council, including current Mayor Bruce Williams, and six former Council members endorsed Mizeur’s campaign for governor. Mizeur previously served as a member of the Council from 2003 to 2005.
In contrast to those from last week, all three of Sunday’s endorsements are not from her home base of Montgomery County, but key target areas where Mizeur would need to rake in votes to pull off a victory in the Democratic primary over Brown or Gansler.
While political scientists have previously speculated that Gansler and Mizeur would split each other’s support as two local candidates hailing from vote-rich Montgomery County, Mizeur has actively pursued voters from other areas of the state, including in Western Maryland, where she previously finished second in a gubernatorial straw poll in April; in the Eastern Shore, where she owns a house in Kent County and has been seen campaigning, appearing at local clam bakes, and leading volunteers in a clean-up of a wetlands area; and in Baltimore City, which is considered a “neutral” area for all three major Democratic candidates.
The endorsements of Clarke and Sohn could help Mizeur grab a foothold with voters – or at least register on their radar – in parts of Baltimore City, and Coates’s endorsement gives her a show of support in Prince George’s County, which has been Brown’s political base since he first served in the House of Delegates as a representative from the 25th Legislative District.
“I am incredibly honored to receive support from local leaders and progressive activists, who work little by little each day, hand in hand with their neighbors, to help our communities live up to their full potential,” Mizeur said in a statement. “Together, we can bring this leadership and energy across our great state, never settling for just good enough.”
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