Maryland gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur on Wednesday formally announced a prominent Prince George’s County pastor who backed the state’s 2012 same-sex marriage referendum as her running mate.
The Montgomery County Democrat who represents Takoma Park and Silver Spring in the Maryland House of Delegates introduced Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton during a campaign event at American Legion Post 41 in Silver Spring.
“I am not just picking a running mate for an election season,” Mizeur said. “I’m choosing a partner who’s best situated to help me deliver on a shared vision for the future of Maryland.”
Coates’ wife Yolanda and their four children and Mizeur’s wife, Deborah Mizeur, joined the ticket on stage as the Montgomery County Democrat’s running mate spoke to supporters.
“My life’s work has been on the front lines of our biggest community issues,” Coates said, referring to his support of marriage rights for same-sex couples and efforts to curb home foreclosures and to help people reintegrate into society once they are no longer incarcerated. “I have stood up for justice. And I stand before you today not driven by professional or personal ambition, but by a calling to bring hope to others when they need it the most.”
Coates, whose congregation has more than 8,000 members, in February 2012 testified in support of a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to legally marry in the state.
Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the measure a few weeks later, but same-sex marriage opponents collected enough signatures to prompt a referendum on the law.
Coates appeared in a television ad in support of Question 6. The Prince George’s County pastor also joined Rev. Al Sharpton and other prominent black clergy who urged Marylanders to vote for the law during a September 2012 press conference at the National Press Club in D.C.
Question 6 passed last November by a 52-48 percent margin.
Coates noted to the Washington Blade after the campaign event the ticket includes a Baptist minister and a lesbian at a time when the National Organization for Marriage said it wants “to exploit this wedge or divide between these two communities.” He stressed their bid is primarily about substance.
“I accepted Heather’s invitation because I think it’s important to return Annapolis to the people,” Coates said. “It really for me is about governing from the bottom up where the concerns, interests of the people are prioritized over the interests of special interests.”
Mizeur will face Attorney General Doug Gansler and Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown in the state Democratic primary in June. She could become the country’s first openly gay governor if Maryland voters elect her to succeed O’Malley.
Gansler last month tapped state Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s County) as his running mate. Howard County Executive Ken Ulman in June joined Brown’s campaign after he abandoned his own gubernatorial bid.
Mizeur told the Blade she began talking with Coates over the summer about potentially joining her campaign.
She said she feels her running mate’s experience as a pastor and efforts in support of same-sex marriage, protecting voting rights and other issues will serve him well as lieutenant governor.
“He’s no stranger to our political process,” Mizeur told the Blade. “He has used his relationship to the community to not just be of service on Sundays, but to roll up his sleeves and be engaged in the community making a difference day in and day out. And that translates incredibly well to the work that we have before us in Annapolis.”
Gansler entered the race in September with a significant financial advantage over his Democratic opponents.
A poll that Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies released on Oct. 17 found Brown ahead of Gansler among likely Maryland voters by a 41-21 percent margin. Slightly more than five percent of respondents said they would vote for Mizeur in the Democratic primary.
In spite of these hurdles, Mizeur’s supporters told the Blade on Wednesday they support her decision to tap Coates has her running mate.
“It’s an excellent choice,” Suchitra Balachandran of College Park said. “Between the two of them we will be addressing topics and discussing issues that otherwise will not happen in a campaign.”
Kevin Walling, a former Equality Maryland staffer who in July declared his candidacy to represent portions of Montgomery County in the House of Delegates, described the ticket as “a dream team.” He said Mizeur’s decision to choose Coates as her running mate came as a surprise, but stressed supporters will respond to him well.
“Once folks meet Delman and see him up close and personal and they get to know him, I think he’s going to win them over,” Walling told the Blade.