Heather R. Mizeur, a former state lawmaker who developed an energetic following among Maryland progressives during her run for governor last year, is endorsing Rep. Chris Van Hollen for Senate, according to a video posted on her Facebook page Wednesday.
Mizeur's support is important because her campaign for governor had significant backing from the party's left, a space that Van Hollen's opponent, Rep. Donna F. Edwards, is trying to occupy. Put another way, Mizeur's support calls attention to Van Hollen's progressive bona fides.
"There's been one person beating the fiscal drum of addressing income inequality, and that has been Chris Van Hollen," Mizeur says in the video, in which she introduces the Montgomery County Democrat at an event in Baltimore. "While other people like to play us-versus-them politics, Chris and I like to look at 'How are we going to get this done?'"
In the posting, Mizeur writes that she is "proud to be on his side."
Van Hollen and Edwards, of Prince George's County, are running for the Senate seat that will be left vacant in 2017 by retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.
A spokesman for Edwards responded by arguing that Van Hollen is trying to "shore up his faltering campaign," and noted an internal poll released this month by her campaign that showed her ahead of Van Hollen.
"Donna is winning in the polls because she's the only progressive fighter in this race willing to take on the special interests that stand in the way of progress for Maryland's middle class families," the spokesman, Benjamin Gerdes, said in a statement. "In Donna, Marylanders can count on a progressive champion who will protect Social Security, stop bad trade deals, and stand down the NRA when they try to secretly buy off politicians."
Mizeur served in the House of Delegates from 2007 to 2015, representing a Montgomery County district. She captured 22 percent of the statewide vote in last year's Democratic primary for governor, losing to Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown.
Her support was higher in Baltimore City, where she captured 29 percent, beating former Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler.
But more important than her vote totals was her ability to rally liberals in the state. Mizeur called for raising the minimum wage to $16.70 an hour and paying for universal preschool by taxing legalized marijuana. She was the first candidate in decades to opt into the state's public campaign financing system.
Her endorsement came a day after former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, also a Van Hollen supporter, penned a piece on Daily Kos touting his positions. The piece was a response to an Edwards op-ed published this month in which she wrote that Van Hollen "believes in compromising on our core principles with Republicans, even if that means cuts to Social Security."
"Look, I've known both of these candidates for years, and unfortunately Donna just isn't being honest about the choice facing Marylanders in this election," Kennedy Townsend wrote.
Edwards, who is backed by several national progressive groups -- including Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee -- has criticized past statements from Van Hollen suggesting the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction recommendations made in 2010 could provide a "framework" for a grand bargain on spending and taxes.
Van Hollen repeatedly called the commission's recommendations a "framework" for negotiations, but he did not specifically endorse the proposal, or its provisions relating to Social Security. As the top-ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, he fought several of the provisions later, including the so-called chained CPI that that was supported by President Barack Obama.
"We are kindred spirits because we believe passionately in the same progressive causes," Van Hollen tells the group of Baltimore supporters in an extended version of the Mizeur video. "But we also believe that in order for all of us to succeed in actually getting results and getting things done on those causes, you have to mobilize support."
Edwards has criticized Van Hollen on several fronts, including his past support for some international trade deals that are despised by labor. Van Hollen supported trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama -- deals that were all opposed by Edwards and a majority of House Democrats -- but he voted against a multilateral trade agreement with Central American countries in 2005 and an agreement with Oman in 2006.
Both candidates have a high score with national labor unions. The AFL-CIO, for instance, gives Van Hollen a 95 percent lifetime score and rates Edwards at 98 percent.
Edwards has also noted that Van Hollen and other Democratic leaders agreed to include a carve out in his disclosure bill in 2010 for the National Rifle Association -- a maneuver that sparked a backlash from gun control supporters. The legislation was later tweaked to exempt a broader array of groups.
House Democrats ultimately split their vote, with 217 supporting it and 36 -- including Edwards -- voting in opposition. Other left-leaning Democrats, including then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore voted for the bill.