What I have witnessed in watching the general election campaign for governor of Maryland unfold has been nothing short of a tragic, missed opportunity to lead our state with vision, passion and a positive outlook for how to build a better Maryland. Voters who are fed up with status quo politics as usual have started to organize an organic effort to write my name on the ballot and their campaign appears to be gaining some traction. For this reason, I am writing to explain why I ask you to stay focused on making a difference, not making a statement.
Let's start this conversation with some heavy doses of truth. I share your frustration. This campaign cycle has been an epic disaster. Maryland's race for governor has been labeled one of the nastiest in the nation. It didn't have to be this way and we deserve better.
I met with Lt. Gov. Brown just a couple of weeks after the primary and pledged my support in barnstorming the state on his behalf if we could work together to run a general election strategy that was focused on the issues that matter to Maryland. We discussed partnering on a few items that my campaign had promoted as a way to bridge support between the voters who were inspired by my candidacy and my desire to excite them about the man who could now get this work done. We discussed campaign finance reform, equal pay for equal work, improving the minimum wage law, small business tax cuts and protections against fracking.
We walked away from the meeting with a plan – I would write a policy memo highlighting a range of options; Mr. Brown would pick a few that suited him best, and we would do a joint press conference to announce the alliance. Weeks after delivering the memo, I received word that the campaign "was taking a different approach." I was told they had no interest in promoting new policies but were instead locked on a strategy to just draw contrasts with their opponent. That is campaign doublespeak for settling to run negative attack ads rather than to promote a positive vision.
I made my best pitch for the Brown-Ulman campaign to abandon that strategy. I stressed how hungry the electorate is to promote leaders who stand for something rather than against someone. I pointed to the spectacular success that my campaign experienced running a purely positive race that was based on ideas and vision. And, ultimately, I explained how I would be of little help to them if they stuck with this approach because I was not comfortable being a surrogate for a campaign whose main talking points were attacking Larry Hogan. I have great respect for Mr. Hogan and his service to our state, even if I disagree with him about many fundamental issues. My pleas were politely listened to and then promptly ignored.
And that is how I found myself sitting mostly on the sidelines of this general election, despite my great desire to help move our state forward. I was frustrated but resigned to just watch how it all played out – that is, until it became clear this week that what initially appeared to be an isolated Facebook post here or there supporting the notion of a Mizeur write-in campaign began to grow into calls from frustrated voters on radio programs, letters to the editor and even opinion editorials promoting the "none of the above" strategy. It was time to break my silence.
I'm struggling right along aside many of you. I am not proud of the options before us. The way a candidate campaigns is a great indication of how he will lead and govern. Messrs. Brown and Hogan have each failed to live up to their best selves in this election. I understand and deeply appreciate the sentiment behind your desire to write my name in on your ballot – you want to send a signal that politics as usual is no longer acceptable and, having seen a different way -- having been inspired by a positive, issue-based campaign during the primary -- you cannot bring yourself to endorse negative campaigning and empty rhetoric by voting for a "lesser of two evils" approach.
I understand this predicament. And yet, I'm asking you to consider holding it in a different way. My campaign was never about making a statement – it was about making a difference. Writing my name on the ballot is a purely symbolic gesture. I will not be the next governor of Maryland. What is worse, such actions might prevent the best option we now have from winning this race.
While I reject his campaign tactics, I still embrace the man that is Anthony Brown. I have known him and worked with him for eight years in Annapolis and we have built a great friendship. I have collaborated with the lieutenant governor on many important issues where we share deeply held, core convictions. I will be voting for the Brown-Ulman ticket because it represents the best chance in this particular election for progressive Marylanders to build a governing strategy that addresses our deepest concerns.
And because there is value in making a statement – in being able to express to these candidates that you are fed up with uninspiring campaigns that reinforce our basest behaviors rather than our higher selves – I offer you this alternative: Wear orange colored clothes to the polls on election day if you want the candidates to know that you are a Mizeur supporter. This visual representation of solidarity against business as usual in Annapolis will show the next governor the strength of our movement. Just please don't write in my name. There is too much at stake. Our time will come at some future election.
Del. Heather R. Mizeur is a lawmaker from Montgomery County who was a Democratic candidate for Governor in the 2014 primary. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.