Del. Heather R. Mizeur announced Wednesday that she has selected the Rev. Delman Coates — a Baptist pastor who played an important role in Maryland's debate over same-sex marriage — as her running mate in the Democratic race for governor.
"I wanted a friend, a confidant, a brilliant mind and caring heart," she said.
The selection adds racial and gender balance to Mizeur's ticket but leaves the Baltimore area out of the picture. She is a white woman from Montgomery County who is serving her second term in the House of Delegates. He is an African-American man who has not held elected office. Both are 40 years old.
"For me, this is not about career, it's about a sense of calling," Coates said.
The Mizeur-Coates team is the second Montgomery-Prince George's alliance in the Democratic race. Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, a Montgomery resident, chose Del. Jolene Ivey of Prince George's to run with him. Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, who is from Prince George's, recruited Howard County Executive Ken Ulman for his ticket.
Coates is a charismatic speaker who has led the 8,000-member Mount Ennon Church since 2004. He became a statewide figure last year when he broke with more conservative clergy members and appeared in television ads in favor of a ballot question approving same-sex marriage in Maryland. Mizeur, a lesbian who married her wife in California, was active in the fight to win ratification of that law.
Mizeur has spoken at Coates' predominantly African-American church several times, joining the pastor in the fall of 2012 to oppose what was ultimately a successful ballot measure to allow a casino in Prince George's.
In a statement, Mizeur pointed to previous times she and Coates have worked together.
"On each issue he has championed — from immigration reform and foreclosure assistance for distressed homeowners to voting rights protections and passage of common-sense gun laws — Delman has been a thoughtful, charismatic change agent for the people," Mizeur said.
Matthew Crenson, professor emeritus of political science at the Johns Hopkins University, noted the similarity of Mizeur's and Coates' views and the fact they both come from the Washington area.
"It doesn't seem that this expands her base much at all," he said. "I suspected from the beginning that her campaign has been as much making a moral statement as winning an election, and her choice of Reverend Coates seems to confirm that."
At the same time, Crenson said, he doubts that voters will object to Mizeur's choice of a minister or his lack of government experience. "How much experience do you need to be lieutenant governor? Lieutenant governor is how you get experience," Crenson said.
Coates holds religion degrees from Morehouse College, Harvard Divinity School and Columbia University, where he earned a doctorate in 2006. He is a married father of four.
The Rev. Donte L. Hickman of the Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore is a longtime friend of Coates who also appeared in advertisements on behalf of the same-sex marriage law. He said Coates' move into politics comes after a "long history of community outreach and involvement in public policy."
He predicted that Coates would strengthen "the conversation that we must have about how we will serve so many underserved people in our communities."
Mizeur is the only one of the three announced Democratic candidates for governor who doesn't hold statewide office. As a consequence, polls show that she has far less name recognition seven months before the June 24 primary than Brown or Gansler. The same polls show Brown holding a roughly 2-1 lead over Gansler, with Mizeur polling in single digits as she attempts to become the first sitting delegate to be elected governor.
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