Democratic gubernatorial candidate Heather R. Mizeur brought her insurgent candidacy to Baltimore's east side Sunday, visiting an African-American church led by a close friend of her newly named running mate.
Mizeur, a two-term delegate from Montgomery County, received a warm reception from several hundred parishioners at Southern Baptist Church after being introduced by its pastor, the Rev. Donte Hickman.
Last week Mizeur selected the Rev. Delman Coates of Prince George's County as her candidate for lieutenant governor – a point she made in her remarks to the congregation.
"I know it doesn't hurt to pick the pastor's 'bestie' as my running mate," she said.
Mizeur's message was similar to one she delivered in Silver Spring last week — calling for tax cuts for most Marylanders, a new approach to crime and a shift away from an emphasis on testing in the educational system. But she brought it with a messianic fervor that seemed to resonate with church members.
"We were born to make manifest the glory of God that's inside of us," she said.
Hickman seemed to allude to Mizeur's campaign in his sermon when he talked about God using people who have been "entirely discounted" to achieve His ends.
"You have to be willing to take risks," he said.
Mizeur, 40, is risking a safe legislative seat in a state whose voters have never voted to elevate a sitting member of the House of Delegates to the governor's office.
Recent polls have shown her with support in single digits and much less name recognition than her Democrat opponents, Lt. Gov. Anthony G Brown and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. Mizeur would be the first woman to hold the office, as well as the first person who is openly gay.
Coates and Hickman were allies of Mizeur in last year's successful fight to allow same-sex marriage in Maryland. The two ministers testified for a civil marriage equality bill in the General Assembly and later appeared in ads supporting the ballot question that upheld the law.
That issue didn't come up in Mizeur's message Sunday. Instead, she emphasized a call to "end politics as usual in Annapolis."
"We can come together to build safe and inspiring communities that teach love rather than fear," she said as she called for an end to "mass incarceration" as a crime-fighting strategy.
Mizeur also repeated her calls for a "living wage" — not just an increased minimum wage — to lift families out of poverty. She also advocated a tax cut for 90 percent of Marylanders — a reduction that she wants to finance with a surcharge on those with annual incomes move than $500,000.
Her message appeared to find an appreciative audience in the church, located in one of Baltimore's most distressed communities.
Shannon Smith, a program analyst at Fort Meade, said she liked Mizeur's call for less emphasis on standardized testing in the schools.
"I also enjoy that she doesn't want to be building more youth jails," Smith said.
Keith Suggs of Baltimore said the white woman from Montgomery County did just fine — even though she followed the charismatic Hickman.
"She connected on a spiritual level," he said.
Hickman, who said his church would welcome any of the other candidates, said Mizeur had done a "great job."
"She's a great person of depth and substance and connects to the issues of the grass roots community," he said.