Democratic gubernatorial candidate Heather R. Mizeur will announce Wednesday that she will become the first contender for that office since 1994 to accept public financing of her campaign — effectively limiting her spending on the primary to about $2.5 million.

Mizeur, a two-term delegate from Montgomery County, will announce her decision as part of her roll out of a broad proposal to curb the influence of special interests on elections. Among the provisions will be replacement of Maryland’s current, limited financing scheme with a comprehensive system.

In a copy of her proposal released by her campaign, Mizeur said she and her running mate, the Rev. Delman Coates, decided to use the current system in order to “lead by example.”

Mizeur would be the first gubernatorial candidate to use the system since Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey in 1994, the House minority leader who pulled off a stunning upset in the GOP primary but lost to Democrat Parris N. Glendening by a razor-thin margin in the general election.

Sauerbrey ran again in 1998 but again lost to Glendening. That time she used conventional financing, which in Maryland means a heavy reliance on well-heeled donors, corporations, unions and political action committees. 

Mizeur plans to announce that she will accept public financing for the primary but that she has not made up her mind about the general election. In that primary, she faces two better-known and better-financed candidates — Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. 

Each can be expected to outspend Mizeur by more than a 2-1 margin. If Mizeur can raise about $1.25 million, the state would provide a matching amount. 

Campaign spokesman Steven Hershkowitz expressed confidence Mizeur will reach the $2.5 million spending goal.

“That will be enough to win this race. We don’t need to out spend the other guys—that thinking is part of the problem. We need enough to communicate our message to voters and we’ll have it,” he said.

Mizeur is attempting to counter their advantages with unconventional but appealing proposals that could generate excitement among Democratic primary voters. They include her recent proposal to legalize and regulate marijuana while using the tax revenue it generate to expand early childhood education.

In her election reform proposal, Mizeur will propose a “robust” campaign financing system such as those adopted in Maine and Connecticut. Unlike the current system, which applies only to the governor’s race, it would be available for all state offices with a sliding scale of public match limits depending on the position. 

Mizeur plans to finance the system, which she estimates will cost $9.75 million annually, with a 12 percent surcharge on traffic and other District Court fines — a system similar to Arizona’s.

Other parts of her proposal would ban corporate contributions and donations from state contractors and increase the time a former legislator must wait before becoming a lobbyist.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com