Montgomery delegate eyes statewide race

For more than a year, speculation about the Democratic field for the 2014 nomination for governor has centered on four veteran male office-holders. But now there's a possibility that a woman legislator from Montgomery County is about to crash the party.

Del. Heather Mizeur, a second-term lawmaker, said yesterday that she is taking a hard look at a potential run for statewide office. She didn't exactly spell out which office she has her eye on, but she wouldn't rule out a try for the top spot.


"I'm keeping my options open relative to the 2014 race. I'm not ruling anything out," she said.

Mizeur, 39, may still be in the decision-making phase, but she's been getting around the state and making the kind of moves that could lay the groundwork for a gubernatorial candidacy. On Sunday morning, she ventured out of her Montgomeny base and spoke to a predominantly African-American congregation in Prince George's County in opposition to the expansion of gambling in Maryland -- a topic the General Assembly will take up in a special session that begins Thursday.

Mizeur, one of the most vehement gambling opponents in the legislature, urged the gathering of about 1,000 at Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton to contact their lawmakers and tell them to oppose a deal that would allow a casino in southern Prince George's -- not far from the church. Instead of creating jobs at casinos, she said, the state should put people to work on transportation projects and school construction.

"This is not about lifing Maryland up and it's not as if this is our only choice," Mizeur exhorted the appreciative congregation.  "There are so many ways to create jobs in this state that lift us up and not tear us down."

Mizeur, a white Catholic who is also one of the General Assembly's eight openly gay lawmakers, didn't just speak the right words to appeal to her Baptist audience. Her passionate delivery fit in well with the preaching style at Mt. Ennon, and the congregation gave her a warm reception.

"Wasn't she awesome?" said Pastor Delman Coates. "She's probably going to run for governor one day."

Coates, who invited Mizeur to speak after reading an anti-casino article she wrote for The Washington Post, later said he didn't have any inside line from his guest on her political plans. But the preacher, a dynamic speaker himself, was openly impressed.

"There's no doubt she connected," Coates said. "She sounds very gubernatorial."

If Mizeur were to join the race, she could expect a primary contest against Attorney General Douglas Gansler (a visitor at an earlier service at the 7,000-member Mt. Ennon church Sunday), Comptroller Peter Franchot, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman. While none has announced his candidacy for governor, all four are considered close to certain contenders to succeed the term-limited Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Mizeur said that for now she's focusing her energies on November's election -- re-electing President Barack Obama and winning approval at referendum of laws permitting same-sex marriage and  in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants.

But if future articles about the 2014 race were to include her name along with the other four presumed candidates, "I wouldn't be opposed," Mizeur said.