The Maryland Democratic Primary will be held on June 24. Whoever wins that nomination will proceed into the general election to face off against the nominees from other parties, most notably the Maryland Republicans. For the rest of the Democratic candidates, the primary will mark the end of the road for their campaigns. As a result, most candidates are throwing as much time, effort, and money as they can afford into winning the nomination. At present, the vast majority of decided, registered Democrats claim to support one of three frontrunners: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Att. Gen. Doug Gansler, and Del. Heather Mizeur.
On Friday, March. 7, Del. Mizeur spoke at an event organized by Seahawks for Mizeur and sponsored by the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) in Daugherty Palmer Commons (DPC). The talk was well enough attended by students and faculty that some late comers were forced to stand as seating filled up. Dr. Michael Cain, Director of CDS and Professor of Political Science, provided his usual brief on the role of the CDS and its purpose in encouraging political events on campus. His words were followed by junior John Holtzman, the president of Seahawks for Mizeur, who introduced Mizeur to the crowd.
Of the three main Democratic candidates, Mizeur is the most radical in both politics and personality. Politically, her stances on most issues place her well to the left of her competition. For example, Gansler, who visited campus in February, took a very moderate stance on environmental issues. In the specific case of Cove Point, he stated that his perspective would be determined by the outcome of certain pending environmental studies, but that he was open to the prospect of the new gas shipping facility being built if those studies indicated that environmental disruption would be minimal. His opinion on fracking was stated as “there should be fracking in Maryland if, and only if, it is proven to be 100 percent safe.” Brown has expressed a similar sentiment.
In contrast, Mizeur placed herself squarely against fracking in Maryland and cited environmental problems in other states as proof that Marylanders made the right choice in banning hydraulic fracking. On the issue of Cove Point, she described the site as “a devastating source of CO2” and asserted that people “cannot claim to be in favor of addressing climate change and for the proposal at Cove Point, it’s just not possible.”
Mizeur talked at length about her plans to improve education in Maryland. Her plan consists of three main goals: providing comprehensive Pre-K to all four-year-olds in the state, improving after school programs, and reforming the school funding process and educational subsidies. Mizeur admitted that these proposals will cost money; her plan to pay for them is one of the most headline grabbing proposals of the primary contest. Mizeur proposes that the state legalize marijuana and use ensuing taxes to pay for her educational programs. This statement, despite being fairly common knowledge, still received quite a reaction from the crowd.
During the Q&A section, Scott Mirabile, an assistant professor of psychology at St. Mary’s College, asked Mizeur about her ideas to improve the state’s higher education opportunities and facilities. Mizeur responded by saying that she is still researching higher education and that she had yet to decide on a best policy. She did, however, list a number of policies that she had heard of other states pursuing and said that she already feels that state level student loans are becoming more important due to federal dysfunction. Mirabile told The Point News that he was “happy that she’s exploring solutions that others are looking into, but I would have liked a more refined response.”
Senior Rachel Braunstein inquired about which energy sources Mizeur felt the state should pursue, if not fossil fuels. To this, Mizeur said that she feels a diverse portfolio of renewable fuel sources would be best. She cited wind, geothermal, solar, and biomass power plants as sources of energy that she considered particularly promising. With regard to biomass, she specifically pointed out the benefits that demand for biomasses, such as switch grass, could have for state agriculture in terms of money and environmental restoration. She also took this time to address statewide composting. She feels that many composting and biomass companies are scared away from the state by overly complex regulations which are spread across too many agencies. If elected, she promised to work to streamline state regulations and policies without weakening them. To The Point News, Braunstein described herself as a “huge environmental advocate” and said that she was “excited that [Mizeur] was exploring so many renewable energy sources.”
At the time of writing, most poll numbers indicate that the Mizeur campaign is gaining in popularity but still trails Gansler and Brown. That said, a sizeable number of registered Democrats still claim to be undecided; enough that the nomination is still well within reach of any of the three frontrunners. Mizeur has considerable support from liberals who relish the idea of voting for a highly progressive candidate favoring stronger social programs and drug legalization, a candidate who would also be the first openly gay governor in the U.S. history; not including Jim McGreevey, who came out as gay and resigned his post as Governor of New Jersey in the same speech. Despite being somewhat of a fringe candidate, a term that Mizeur claimed to take pride in, the crowd of young liberal arts students who gathered in DPC showed considerable enthusiasm for Mizeur. However, her challenge in the coming months will be achieving similar support among voters whose tastes are more moderate or even conservative.