“C’mon, hook a sister up,” she said playfully, kicking off a conversation that ended with the guys taking baby-blue campaign stickers and asking whether they could get “Mizeur for Governor” T-shirts as well.
Mizeur — who, if elected, would be Maryland’s first female governor and its first who is openly gay — quickly dispatched an aide to retrieve some from a nearby stash, assuring the men, clearly at least XLs, that “we’ve got them in your size.”
She was making her debut as a statewide candidate at the J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake, a political must-attend event that locals on the southern tip of Maryland’s Eastern Shore bill as equal parts seafood, sweat and schmooze.
And with an earlier-than-usual June primary next year in Maryland, the event, which is named for the former governor, felt like the real start to the campaign.
Besides Mizeur, no fewer than six declared or potential candidates for governor pressed the flesh on Wednesday, including Mizeur’s two better-known and better-funded rivals, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler.
Although many think she faces long odds, Mizeur, 40, starts with an enthusiastic base of liberal supporters and confidence that she can build a following based on ideas. As for the history she would make if elected, she said it would be “icing on the cake” to break multiple barriers. But, Mizeur said, “I’m running to make a difference, not to make history.”
Mizeur, who announced her candidacy earlier Wednesday in an e-mail to supporters, said she considers herself “the strongest candidate for governor of Maryland because of the accomplishments I have in the time I’ve had in office and the ability to bring people together to get that work done.”
As governor, Mizeur said, she would build on those efforts. Priorities, she said, would include tackling an achievement gap in education, expanding early childhood learning, creating “infrastructure banks” to promote environmentally friendly jobs and reforming the state’s judicial system to “break the cradle-to-prison pipeline” for many youths.
As a candidate, she said, “there will be no end to the amount of policy rollouts we do.”
The event offered a contrast in styles between the two other Democratic contenders.
Gansler arrived shortly after the event began, slipping through the main entrance without any fanfare and accompanied by a small handful of aides.
“Did you see all those illegal Brown signs on the highway coming down here?” he asked one of the first people he greeted, referring to a long row of yard signs Brown aides had assembled in the grassy median of the main drag leading into Crisfield.