Del. Heather Mizeur, who would become Maryland's first female governor and the nation's first openly gay one if elected, is campaigning as the most liberal candidate in the state's Democratic primary, backing higher taxes on the wealthy to help ease the tax burden on the middle class.
Attorney General Doug Gansler, who is running against Mizeur, wants to cut the corporate income tax. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who also is running for the Democratic nomination, says he will form a commission to study tax reform. Mizeur, however, supports bringing back a tax on people with income of $1 million or more. She also wants to go beyond the minimum wage increase approved in the last legislative session to $10.10 in 2018 to create what she calls a living wage of $16.70 an hour by 2022.
"I think that my focus on middle-class and small business tax reform and closing that income inequality gap is my top priority and where I would dig down deeper than what I've seen us been able to do over the last eight years,'' Mizeur, who has been a member of the House of Delegates since 2007, told The Associated Press in a recent interview.
Mizeur, 41, has taken a strong environmental stance by opposing the proposed conversion of the Cove Point LNG import facility in southern Maryland to an export facility while expressing wariness of a drilling technique known as fracking in western Maryland, positions that helped win her the endorsement of The Sierra Club, Maryland Chapter.
Mizeur has drawn attention for supporting marijuana legalization and taxing it to pay for a big expansion of pre-kindergarten. While her Democratic primary opponents also want to expand pre-K, Mizeur's plan goes the furthest, offering it to all 4-year-olds and expanding access to 3-year-olds.
Although Mizeur comes from the far left side of the state's Democratic Party, she likes to note how she is happy to reach across party lines. As an example, she cites working with a conservative House member to find a common goal to help pass a bill in 2011 to expand free family planning to low-income women in Maryland.
"It didn't matter what your reproductive choice position was,'' Mizeur said. "We all could agree that eliminating unwanted pregnancies was a good thing.''
While a bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana had a tough road to passage in the Legislature this year, Mizeur was one of the lawmakers who kept advocating for it in the waning days of the session when the bill appeared dead.
"There seems to be a growing recognition that our marijuana prohibition laws don't do anything to keep our communities more safe,'' Mizeur said. "If anything, they're distracting our law enforcement from focusing on more violent and serious crimes.''
Mizeur, who is using public campaign financing, is at a financial disadvantage in her matchup with Gansler and Brown. With matching money, Mizeur reported about $1 million cash on hand this week, while Brown reported $4.2 million and Gansler reported $3.1 million
"It is expensive to run a statewide race, and it's very challenging to do it in the low-dollar way that I've been doing it, but the benefit is the engagement at the grassroots level from their recognition that this is their campaign to own, and it's something that they can believe in and that they're helping to make happen,'' Mizeur said.