On the Fence and in the Spotlight

By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The first time Hillary Clinton called, Heather Mizeur didn't pick up. Listening to the message, she heard Clinton's voice and assumed it was a campaign robo-call. But then the New York senator and Democratic presidential candidate asked Mizeur to call back -- and left her personal cellphone number.

In the weeks that followed, Mizeur's iPhone was besieged. Chelsea Clinton, Bill Clinton and Terry McAuliffe called to check in. So did Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), three other senators and four governors. Melissa Etheridge called, too, and invited her backstage at her next concert.

Mizeur, a freshman state legislator from Takoma Park, is a superdelegate. And through this topsy-turvy campaign, she has remained undeclared -- adamantly, stubbornly undeclared.

Today, Mizeur's exhilarating odyssey as an uncommitted superdelegate comes to an end. After last night's contests in Montana and South Dakota, she has decided, finally, to jump off the fence.

Unlike many of the other 795 superdelegates -- governors, members of congress, former presidents and party elders -- Mizeur is a relative nobody in the world of presidential politics. But her status as undeclared through six months of primary voting transformed her into a somebody.

Through it all, Mizeur, 35, has kept a journal. There are the pages listing the cellphone numbers of senators, governors and the candidates themselves, who have lavished her and her partner Deborah Mizeur with attention. There are the notes from her private talks with Clinton and Obama. There are the handwritten letters from elderly women across the country asking her to choose Clinton.

Then there are those episodes that Mizeur left out of the diary but that she remembers all too well. Such as the day she walked home from the Takoma Park Metro station and a neighbor screamed at her, "Obama! Obama! Obama!" Or the mornings when she's been heckled at Savory Cafe, her neighborhood coffee shop.

"Heather has had to withstand a tremendous amount of pressure from all kinds of places, including from her constituents," said Deborah Mizeur, a former health care policy aide in Congress. "A lot of people use very harsh words, and it's difficult for her to do what she wants to do and wait."

Just last week, during lunch with a reporter, Heather Mizeur's phone rang. Not recognizing the number, she let it roll over to voice mail.

"See, I don't answer calls like this anymore," she said. "The most dangerous place to be right now is between a superdelegate and her cellphone."

A Surprise Spotlight

Mizeur never imagined it would get this intense. In fact, she hardly knew what a superdelegate was when she ran in 2005 for one of Maryland's four seats on the Democratic National Committee.

Mizeur was a Takoma Park City Council member and a top aide in Kerry's Senate office who helped run his 2004 campaign in Maryland. "For me, the DNC position was about building a good party," Mizeur said.

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