Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who has been relentless in his criticism of Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, diverted his fire Wednesday to the third Democrat in the race for governor, Del. Heather R. Mizeur.
Appearing on WBAL radio's C4 show with Clarence Mitchell IV, Gansler brought up Mizeur's lack of a college degree and her business activities.
"People are starting to learn about all of us," Gansler said. "I literally ran into a woman at the subway this morning that didn't know that Delegate Mizeur didn't graduate from college or was a lobbyist for her living and was paying herself out of campaign funds to her lobbying company, which is she and her wife."
Mizeur campaign manager Joanna Belanger called Gansler's comments "dirty tricks and false character assassinations," and noted that Mizeur has been waging a positive campaign.
"His accusations about her small business are out of left field and a lie on their face. His constant comments about her college completion are insulting to the 64% of Marylanders without a bachelor's degree, and are out-of-touch and elitist," Belanger said.
According to the Mizeur campaign, the Montgomery County lawmaker attended the University of Illinois from 1991-1994 but left without receiving her degree when an internship in a congressional office led to a job that launched her career on Capitol Hill. Mizeur later served as domestic policy adviser to Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts from 2003-2006.
After leaving Kerry's office, Mizeur ran for the House of Delagates and won a seat in Maryland's part-time legislature. A year later she co-founded a company known as The Mizeur Group, whose web site says it offers "strategic advice," "political insights" and "issue advocacy" on health care and energy policy.
Mizeur is listed by the Center for Responsive Politics' Open Secrets.org as a lobbyist. According to the group, the company's business took in roughly $2 million a year at its peak in 2009-2010 but its earnings have dwindled as Mizeur began gearing up to run for governor. It is now down to two clients, according to Open Secrets. Mizeur's wife, Deborah, is the only remaining employee, her campaign said.
Mizeur said she paid her business $64,000 from her campaign funds as a way of paying employees who did political work on company time in an effort to increase transparency. She said she didn't want to be accused of using the company to make an illegal in-kind contribution to the campaign. According to her campaign, Mizeur herself was at one time registered as a federal lobbyist but has not been for a few years.
Steven Hershkowitz, Mizeur's campaign spokesman, had an explanation for Gansler's focus on his candidate. "We must be gaining traction," he said.
A recent Baltimore Sun Poll showed Brown far in the lead with 41 percent among likely Democratic primary voters, with Gansler at 20 percent and Mizeur at 15 percent.
After Gansler's statement, Brown issued a statement defending Mizeur.
"I served with Heather for eight years and if Doug Gansler is suggesting she isn't qualified that is because he is simply ignoring the important contributions Heather has made on issues of critical importance to Marylanders, such as domestic violence, women's and children's health, and education - just to name a few," Brown said.