Tag Archives: Heather Mizeur

Out gubernatorial candidate leads Maine’s Pride parade

A Democratic candidate who reluctantly came out of the closet last year found himself serving as the grand marshal of Maine’s biggest gay Pride parade and festival Saturday and urged activists to continue fighting to eliminate discrimination and promote equality.

Mike Michaud, who would become the nation’s first openly gay person to be elected governor if he unseats Republican Paul LePage in November, said it would be powerful for the gay community to have a seat at the table in discussions with governors across the country on equality issues.

“Maine has come a long ways and our nation has come a long ways, but there’s still a long way to go,” he said in an interview before he marched alongside a white convertible down the roughly mile-long route in downtown Portland.

Gay rights activists say the six-term congressman’s victory would be a key milestone in their movement toward equality, inspire other gay leaders to pursue public office and send a positive message to the community’s youth.

When Michaud came out publicly last year, he said he didn’t want to focus on his personal life in the three-person race with independent Eliot Cutler.

But his potentially historic candidacy has caught the eye of national groups like the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which has bundled $30,000 to $50,000 for his campaign.

During the parade, which drew thousands, Michaud shook hands and took pictures with supporters who chanted “We like Mike” as he walked in front of the “Loud and Proud” marching band.

He followed motorcyclists wearing rainbow wigs and feather boas and the parade’s two other grand marshals — the coordinator at the University of Southern Maine’s Center for Sexualities and Gender Diversity and a transgender student who won a discrimination lawsuit after her school refused to let her use the girls’ bathroom.

Aside from fundraising, observers say Michaud’s sexual orientation will likely have other political importance in one of the first states to approve same-sex marriage at the ballot box in 2012.

It could turn away some deeply conservative and religious voters, but they likely wouldn’t have supported the Democrat anyway, said Michael Cuzzi, a former Democratic campaign strategist.

Michaud has come under fire from his political foes for voting against anti-discrimination laws for gays and other pro-equality measures while in the state Legislature. His campaign said his position on the issues has evolved over the years and he’s now strongly pro-equality.

That turnaround and his decision to come out could attract progressives who were not fans of his in earlier elections, said Sandy Maisel, political science professor at Colby College.

Michaud is headlining a group of several openly gay candidates around the country this year, including Heather Mizeur, who’s seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Maryland. Meanwhile, three candidates are trying to become the first openly gay Republicans to be elected to Congress: Dan Innis in New Hampshire, Richard Tisei in Massachusetts and Carl DeMaio in California.

If elected, Michaud wouldn’t be the first gay governor. New Jersey’s Jim McGreevey had already been voted into office when he announced in 2004 that he was gay and admitted to an extramarital affair with a male staffer. He subsequently resigned.

Twenty-nine year-old Amber Hodgkins, who was watching the parade with her dog, said a victory for Michaud could improve Maine’s image nationally as an inclusive community and provide a powerful example to young gay people across the country.

“You don’t have to choose to be out or have a career,” she said. “You can have it all.”

Michaud currently leads by a slim margin in the polls.

Lesbian lawmaker running for Maryland governor

A Maryland lawmaker hopes to be elected the nation’s first openly gay governor.

Delegate Heather Mizeur is running in the 2014 election.

The Democrat has been exploring a run for months and also would become Maryland’s first female governor if elected.

“It’s a sign of how far we’ve come as a state that an openly gay person can be a serious candidate for governor,” Mizeur said. “But the fact that we’re still talking about it is a sign that we still have a ways to go.”

Maryland legalized same-sex marriage earlier this year, after voters approved legislation in November allowing it.

An openly gay candidate has never been elected governor in any state.

Former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey resigned in 2004 after announcing he was gay and had had an affair with a male staffer.

Mizeur, who has been a member of Maryland’s House of Delegates since 2007, has focused on health issues while in office. She also has been an outspoken advocate for caution in allowing drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale in western Maryland. Mizeur has called for a thorough study of health, environmental and economic impacts before allowing hydraulic fracturing, the drilling technique commonly known as fracking.

Mizeur said she planned to roll out over the course of the campaign ideas for boosting job creation and improving schools. She also announced a series of public service events across the state.

Some have questioned how well the 40-year-old delegate from Takoma Park, in Montgomery County near the nation’s capital, will be able to compete against statewide officeholders who have been planning a gubernatorial race for years. But Mizeur placed second in an April straw poll in western Maryland, and she said she is confident her campaign is building enthusiasm.

“We’re building a grassroots campaign that will absolutely have the resources to compete for every vote,” Mizeur said Tuesday in an interview.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown also is seeking the Democratic nomination. Democratic Attorney General Doug Gansler, who has held two forums about future policy plans, is expected to announce his bid in September. Democratic Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Baltimore County is considering running.

Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley is serving his second term, the maximum allowed under state law.

Looking toward the next glass ceiling

By now I am sure that everyone knows Tammy Baldwin is the first openly LGBT person elected to the U.S. Senate, and that she’s the first woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate from Wisconsin. What’s next for our community politically?

Two weeks ago I attended the LGBT Leaders Conference in Long Beach, Calif. The conference, hosted by the Victory Fund, was a gathering of high-ranking LGBT leaders from around the world, but I want to talk about just one of them – Heather Mizeur. Currently a member of the Maryland General Assembly, Mizeur recently announced her intention to run for governor. If she wins, she would be the first out person elected governor in our nation’s history. She would also be the first woman elected governor of Maryland.

Since returning from California, I have been talking nonstop about Mizeur to everyone willing to listen – about her chances of winning and why it’s not too early for us to start thinking about 2014. I think she can win, and it’s not because of some complex political strategy or a massive war chest. It’s because she listens intently. When you engage her in a conversation, she isn’t looking past you or scanning the room for that big donor she must talk to before the night is over. She’s there, in that moment, with you. 

Mizeur wouldn’t be the first openly gay governor. That distinction is held by Jim McGreevey, the infamous New Jersey chief executive who resigned in 2004 after coming out and admitting to an extramarital affair with a male staff member.

Now, almost nine years later, this country has come full circle. In today’s politics, sexual orientation doesn’t matter, as proven by the 2012 elections. Tommy Thompson never personally spoke about Baldwin’s orientation, but when a senior campaign aide sent an email to donors about it, it hurt his campaign.

In Arizona, my friend Kyrsten Sinema became the first openly bisexual person elected to Congress. The only time her orientation came up was in her Democratic primary. One of her opponents commented: “Don’t vote for her, she can’t win because she’s bisexual.” 

Sinema not only won the primary, she won the general election.

America is an amazing country. More and more LGBT individuals are being elected at all levels, and not because they are LGBT, but because their constituents believe they are the best person to address our nation’s future. It might be only a month after the elections, but I am already making my first endorsement for 2014: Heather Mizeur for governor of Maryland.