By Erica Quinones
Washington College students gathered in the Hodson Hall Commons Faculty Lounge to meet U.S. Congressional Candidate for Maryland’s First District Heather Mizeur on Tuesday, Feb. 22.
Organized by the WAC Democrats, Mizeur was invited on campus for their “Coffee with the Candidate” event, in which the club provided attendees an opportunity to enjoy donuts, warm beverages, and conversation.
Mizeur is a resident of Chestertown, Md. where she lives with her wife on their farm and staffs her campaign headquarters.
Before running for the U.S. Congress, Mizeur spent over 25 years in public service, according to her website. Working as U.S. Senator John Kerry’s Domestic Policy Director and on his 2004 presidential campaign, she was later elected to the Maryland General Assembly, serving in the Maryland House of Delegates from 2007 to 2015.
While working for Kerry, Mizeur said she became frustrated with the lack of legislative movement on the national level. However, after moving to state politics, she managed to pass bills in Maryland that faltered in D.C., like that which allowed offspring to stay on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 25.
“The state legislature is such a wonderful place to start to make a difference. We incubate really great ideas at the state level, then they become replicable at the national level,” Mizeur said.
After leaving elected office, Mizeur founded the non-profit organization, Soul Force Politics, which is “dedicated to bridging the worsening divisions in American politics and civil life,” according to her website.
The desire to bandage the political wounds of Americans is central to her return to politics.
Mizeur said that after leaving the legislature, she had no plans of running for Congress. However, the behavior of incumbent Representative Andrew Harris on Jan. 6, 2021, provoked her to enter the race.
Harris voted to contest the 2020 presidential election results and was reportedly part of a heated altercation on the Chamber floor with Representatives Al Lawson of Florida and Colin Allred of Texas, according to Washington Post.
Mizeur said that “the first thing that grabbed my attention, of course, was his refusal to support the peaceful transfer of power that day, but there was something about that punch, that desire to fight with a colleague in a physical altercation…after this horrendous day in which our Capital had been attacked by domestic terrorists.”
Washington Post reported that “no punches were thrown.”
Her return to politics was centered on the desire to mend these wounds, saying she wants to help people treat each other with compassion, dignity, and curiosity to heal the divides that opened during the Trump Administration.
“I think it’s past time we can come back to a place where we can count on our leadership being dignified,” Mizeur said.
After presenting key points of her campaign, Mizeur opened the floor to questions from the student audience, saying she hoped to open dialogue and collaboration between her campaign and the College.
Public Service Liaison and President of the Class of 2025 Stephen Hook asked after that connection between Mizeur’s campaign and the youth of the College, inquiring into Mizeur’s commitment to hearing from young voices in her office if she is elected.
Mizeur said listening to youth has been a major aspect of her career. After winning her election for the General Assembly, Mizeur collaborated with the Youth Council to inquire into their top legislative priorities. She then sponsored those bills and invited students to testify on the legislative pieces they helped write.
She drew on her past in the Maryland General Assembly for her approach to the current election throughout the night, especially when discussing the deconstruction of barriers due to labels.
When asked if she worried her previous role as representative for Montgomery County would hurt her bid on the Eastern Shore by junior Dylan Snow, she said she was not a fan of labels in politics.
Mizeur said her ideas once labeled as radical are now mainstream. She was labeled as liberal in her earlier career as she pushed for marriage equality in 2005 and for a 2014 platform “that would make Bernie Sanders blush at the time” with marijuana legalization, universal pre-school, and a $15 minimum wage.
However, Mizeur said she likely no longer aligns with the progressive platform due to policy differences, such as her lacking support of single-payer healthcare systems.
Instead of focusing on labels, she instead wants to focus on what is required for a rural district, prioritizing demands at the local level.
That idea of overcoming labels to focus on shared needs carried into her overall ideas on healing political divides.
After WAC Democrats Social Media Manager and junior Lexi Meola asked Mizeur how she sees her role in overcoming partisan divides, Mizeur said she hopes to put aside labels and get to know opposing legislators.
Speaking on her previous relationship with Maryland Delegate Mike Schmiegel, Mizeur said they built a relationship that surpassed politics, allowing them to collaborate on shared goals that assist all citizens.
“It’s this humanity piece that I think has been missing the most in our politics, it’s coming into this relationship with each other that transcends partisanship, transcends ideology, just recognizes our core value to each other in this joint-lived human experience,” Mizeur said.
Mizeur is running against three Democrats in the primary being held on June 28, 2022. Her opponents are Dave Harden, Mia Mason, and Matt Talley.
The 2022 general election for Maryland’s First District will be held on Nov. 8, 2022, against Harris.
Photo by Kayla Thornton
Featured Photo Caption: Democratic Congressional Candidate for Maryland’s First District Heather Mizeur chatting with students in the Hodson Hall Commons Faculty Lounge about her background with politics during conversation with students.