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Heather Mizeur: Campaign against Andy Harris has ‘huge amount of momentum’

Former Md. House of Delegate member running for Congress on Eastern Shore

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Heather Mizeur speaks to supporters at the Ten Eyck Brewing Company in Queenstown, Md., on July 19, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Heather Mizeur on Wednesday said her campaign to unseat Republican Congressman Andy Harris has “a huge amount of momentum” in the final days before Election Day.

“We’ve really done something with this unity coalition that we’ve been putting together for almost two years now,” Mizeur told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview.

Mizeur served on the Takoma Park City Council before she served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 2007-2015. Mizeur ran for governor in 2014.

Mizeur, who now lives on the Eastern Shore with her wife, announced her campaign against Harris in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District less than a month after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

She defeated David Harden in the Democratic primary that took place on July 19. Mizeur would be the first openly lesbian member of Congress from Maryland if she defeats Harris on Tuesday.

Harris has represented the 1st Congressional District — which currently encompasses the entire Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Carroll and Harford Counties — since 2011. Mia Mason, a transgender veteran, ran against Harris in 2020.

The Cook Political Report currently ranks the district as R +11.

Campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission indicate Mizeur raised $2,621,651.48 from Jan. 1, 2021, through Oct. 19, compared to $1,675,169.32 that Harris raised during the same period. The statements also indicate Mizeur as of Oct. 19 had $447,762.57 on hand, compared to Harris’ $1,099,702.25.

Mizeur’s website notes former Maryland Congressman Wayne Gilchrist, former Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy and Havre de Grace Mayor Bill Martin are among the Republicans who have endorsed her campaign. 

Salisbury Mayor Jake Day, Havre de Grace Mayor Bill Martin, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, state Del. Lisa Belcastro (D-Baltimore County), House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) are among the elected officials who have endorsed Mizeur. The Victory Fund, LPAC, Emily’s List, the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, SEIU and other groups have also backed her campaign. 

The Human Rights Campaign notes Harris has voted against the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights laws. Harris, among other things, has co-sponsored a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban marriage for same-sex couples.

Harris on Oct. 27 repeatedly attacked transgender people during a debate against Mizeur that took place at Cecil College in North East.

“This is not the Defense Department that I signed up for 1988,” said Harris, who is a U.S. Navy veteran. “It’s more interested in whether or not you fund transgender surgery than whether you fund a missile system to counter the Chinese hypersonic threat. There is more interest on the other side about whether we are going to use preferred pronouns in the Pentagon than whether or not our men and women in uniform have the backing of their higher ups and the investments in military weapon systems to protect their lives.” 

Harris in his opening statement noted “the stripping of parental rights; whether that’s school curriculum, promote (a) transgender agenda in schools, keeping secrets from parents.”

Mizeur told the Blade that his comments were “not surprising because it’s part of how he has governed.” Mizeur further described them as “disappointing.”

“We don’t ever want to use trans kids or immigrants or any othering to create division and fear in order to win an election and stay in power and my campaign is the total opposite,” she said. “I arrived with solutions and ideas and relationships that reflect the true reality of what’s going on in the district, what our needs are and how we’re going to solve problems and he showed up with just right-wing, fringe, extremist radical talking points that are completely out of touch.”

Mizeur during the debate also sharply criticized Harris over his position on abortion rights.

“He came out with this ridiculous suggestion that women in Maryland would carry a pregnancy to term and decide to have an abortion because of the gender of the baby,” said Mizeur. “It is offensive to every woman in the state of Maryland.” 

“He clearly knows nothing, surprisingly as a doctor, about the process of pregnancy, about what a woman endures in that process, about how all pregnancies late-term are wanted pregnancies,” she added. “The only time you’re going to have an abortion is if something goes tragically wrong and to suggest a women would just cavalierly end a pregnancy because the baby wasn’t the gender she wanted is just an affront to every woman in America.”

Mizeur spoke with the Blade days after Harris’ campaign released a flyer that contained a picture of her wearing a t-shirt that says “America needs lesbian farmers.”

“I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m a lesbian and a farmer,” said Mizeur.

Mizeur said the t-shirt she was wearing was “making fun of right-wing extremism where Rush Limbaugh suggested during the Obama administration that they were giving grants to lesbians to make them farmer so that the queer agenda would infiltrate conservative America and allow democrats to win red states.” 

“While being hilarious because I am a lesbian and a farmer, he was using it as an effort to trump up homophobia in the district that is just going to be resoundingly rejected,” she told the Blade.

Mizeur also said her potential constituents’ reaction to Harris sharing the picture on social media was a combination of “more of Andy Harris’ divisive politics and smear campaigns and as a sign of how threatened he is that we are really closing this campaign with strong campaign.” 

“He fears losing and he should,” said Mizeur.

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Maryland

Two new gay Md. delegates outline agenda

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From left, Kris Fair and Joseph Vogel (Photos courtesy of Kris Fair and Joseph Vogel)

The two openly gay men who were elected to the Maryland House of Delegates last week spoke with the Washington Blade about their campaigns and what they plan to do once they’re in office.

State Del.-elect Joseph Vogel will represent District 17 in Montgomery County. He said he is ready to bring a new direction to Annapolis.

“In this campaign, we listened,” Vogel said. “Now I’m bringing their voices to Annapolis and gonna fight for the issues that are most important to the folks here in my district.”

Vogel attended community events, held house parties and even went door to door to understand what his voters wanted out of him. 

One of his most memorable moments from the campaign came after his election.

He was immediately overwhelmed with messages from people across all of Maryland and across the U.S., saying how much his election means to them. Having an openly gay Latino elected official — Vogel was born in Uruguay and came to Maryland with his family when he was 3-years-old — has brought representation into politics that hasn’t previously been there. 

“I think now people are really excited and really hopeful about my time in office, I’m just committed to making sure that I don’t let them down and that I work hard and really fight the good fight,” Vogel said.

Now that he’s been elected to office, Vogel’s agenda includes addressing mental health issues in school, especially the lack of mental health professionals. He also hopes to address climate change.

Vogel hopes that, along with the issues he’s tackling first, he leaves office as a delegate who was known to be accessible and approachable.

“I’m going to fight for you, no matter your age. I’m going to fight for you, no matter your sexuality,” he said. “I’m going to fight for you regardless of your race, religion, ethnicities, where you live. I’m in this to fight for our entire community.”

Kris Fair is first openly gay lawmaker from Western Md.

State Del.-elect Kris Fair has had a long career in the world of politics and nonprofits, including as executive director of Frederick Center, an advocacy and support organization for LGBTQ people. His campaign to represent District 3 in Frederick County proved successful.

This victory did not come without hard work. 

Fair knocked on 11,500 doors with now state Sen.-elect Karen Lewis Young during the primaries and then turned around to hit another 5,000-6,000 once the general election campaign began. 

“There are so many people that are at the door that are just like ‘I feel so disconnected from the process, I feel like there’s nobody here to represent me,’” Fair told the Blade. “So instead of shoving the issues down and trying to force them to tell me whether or not they’re going to vote for me, which is an incredibly awkward 30 seconds, instead of just trying we tried to open up dialogue and we had an incredible response rate.”

Fair did not have the same response to his sexual orientation as Vogel. 

While Vogel saw the conversation around it as an addition to his campaign, Fair’s sexual orientation became a major talking point during his conversations with parents about the Frederick County Board of Education. Discussing things like the LGBTQ-specific curriculum with which that parents have an issue became a big pill for Fair to swallow because he had to repeatedly hear attacks against his sexual orientation. 

Luckily, not all moments on Fair’s campaign were as solemn. 

Returning from an LGBTQ conference in Dallas, Fair sat next to an Indian man on the plane and began to talk with him. He learned this stranger’s life story: He was in the U.S. on a work visa and was visiting his sister in Frederick.

Fair offered the man a ride once they landed. 

“His sister heard that and said, ‘You’re about to get in some psycho’s car’ and my husband heard that and said, ‘You’re about to put a psycho in your car,’” Fair said.

Arriving at his new friend’s home, Fair unknowingly walked into a 60th birthday celebration for the man’s grandfather. He was invited inside. After standing around and chatting for some time, he really started to understand how much he was missing by not having constant communication or conversations with his voters, he never had the opportunity to create the vulnerability or break down the walls. 

Moving past elections, Fair is ready to tackle hard issues like having a comprehensive constituent service system, giving citizens access to government funded entities like the DMV and help these people get what they need. He also hopes to implement an output treatment model in Maryland, giving those struggling with mental health issues an option to remove themselves from their current home and move into a treatment center. 

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Maryland

Two gay men elected to Md. House of Delegates

LGBTQ incumbents across state won re-election

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From left, Kris Fair and Joseph Vogel (Photos courtesy of Fair and Vogel)

Two openly gay men won their Maryland House of Delegates races on Tuesday.

Kris Fair won his race in District 3 in Frederick County with 22.78 percent of the vote. He is the first openly gay man from Western Maryland elected to the General Assembly. 

Joseph Vogel will represent District 17 in Montgomery County after he won with 26.59 percent of the vote.

State Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore County) and state Dels. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery County), Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City), Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery County) and Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County) won their respective races.

Montgomery County Circuit Court Clerk Karen Bushell, who is a lesbian, won re-election. Montgomery County Council Vice President Evan Glass won an at-large seat with 19.33 percent of the vote.

Bisexual woman makes history in Prince George’s County

Krystal Oriadha on Tuesday became the first openly bisexual person elected to the Prince George’s County Council when she won her District 7 race with 95.33 percent of the vote. Pamela Boozer-Strother, a member of the Prince George’s County Board of Education, won re-election with 79.16 percent of the vote.

Howard County Register of Wills Byron Macfarlane won re-election.

April Christina Curley lost her race for the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners. She would have been the first openly genderqueer person elected in the city if she had won.

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Maryland

Md. to legalize recreational marijuana

Question 4 passed by 65.51-34.49 percent margin

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(Photo courtesy of NORML)

Voters in Maryland on Tuesday approved the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state.

Question 4, which sought to amend the Maryland Constitution, passed by a 65.51-34.49 percent margin.

Maryland will join Virginia, New Jersey, California, Colorado and more than a dozen other states that have legalized recreational marijuana. The nation’s capital has also legalized recreational marijuana.

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