After the vote tally that came up less than she had hoped for in Tuesday’s Maryland Democratic gubernatorial primary, and after the victory party that turned into just a party, Del. Heather R. Mizeur (Montgomery) began shutting down her campaign.
There are offices to close, staff members who need to find their next jobs and heartbroken young volunteers who need a pep talk. And Mizeur had to respond to her thousands of social media followers who posted messages like these: “One day, you will be Governor Mizeur. And Maryland will rock!” and “Please don’t stop! Run again and again! We need you, Heather!!” and “Look forward to seeing you on a ballot again real soon.”
After taking a day to meet with her staff and core volunteers, plus spend time with relatives who had traveled to Maryland from Illinois, Mizeur posted a message on her Facebook page on Thursday. She promised that “not in a million years” would she walk away from those who rallied around her candidacy.
“[W]e awakened a sleeping giant — the progressive movement of Maryland,” wrote Mizeur, who, if elected, would have been Maryland’s first female governor and the nation’s first openly gay elected governor. “Our campaign is being universally touted as the smartest, best grassroots campaign Maryland has ever seen. Thank you for your part in this historic effort.”
Mizeur told her fans that she needs some time to rest and collect “my thoughts, my energy, and my strategic sense of where we take this next.” Mizeur said in an interview on Thursday afternoon that it’s still not clear what’s next but that she hopes to have a plan in the coming weeks. To run for governor, Mizeur had to give up her seat in the Maryland House of Delegates.
“I didn’t run for governor to set myself up for something else down the road,” she said. “I will never walk away from public service, but I don’t know what shape that will take.”
Many were impressed with the momentum that Mizeur gained in the final weeks of the campaign, even though she lacked the name recognition of her Democratic rivals, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, and agreed to limit her overall campaign spending in exchange for some money from the state.
Mizeur got 21.7 percent of the votes, not far behind better-known and better-funded Gansler, who garnered about 24 percent.
But Mizeur’s supporters thought she had a shot at winning — or at least coming close to Brown, who won with more than half of votes, nearly 30 points ahead of Mizeur. She beat Brown in just one jurisdiction, Kent County, a heavily Republican area where she owns a farm. She beat Gansler in six out of 24 jurisdictions, including Baltimore and Howard County.
“The clock ran out on us,” Mizeur said. “We gave it our absolute best shot.”
Mizeur said that she hopes that her campaign will encourage others to run a “positive campaign” and use the state public financing system, which matches campaign donations of up to $250 for candidates who agree to keep their spending under roughly $2.5 million. But Mizeur said that if the state wants these publicly financed candidates to have a shot at winning, they need to increase that limit and perhaps match donations of up to $500. Her campaign saved most of its money for television ads and didn’t have funds for yard signs, bumper stickers or a paid field operation.
“Elections are a numbers game, overall,” Mizeur said. “It’s just about scale. It’s an incredible challenge to run a statewide campaign and get your message out.”
On Tuesday evening, Mizeur called to congratulate Brown and then asked her own supporters to back him in the General Election.
Brown has since repeatedly praised Mizeur, including at a gathering of Democrats in Rockville on Thursday evening where he credited her for having “galvanized a true progressive movement by leading efforts to raise our minimum wage, improve the health of women and children across our state and decriminalize marijuana to reduce racial disparities in our justice system.”
Mizeur spent months telling voters that progressive change likely could not be accomplished by the current political establishment. But she says she is now hopeful that her voters showed that they deeply care about the issues she championed, such as further increasing the minimum wage, expanding pre-kindergarten classes, eliminating the pay gap between men and women, providing tax relief to working families and protecting the environment. She says she hopes to see action on these issues in the coming years.
“You don’t have to win an election to win on the issues,” she said.