Heather Mizeur vs. Andy Harris: A political race worth watching

Despite the underlying cynicism enveloping America’s paralyzed and toxic political culture, every so often – truth be told, it rarely happens these days – an actual person, not a politician, experiences an epiphany in some form or another.

That epiphany can sometimes materialize into concrete action.

Former Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur’s go-big-or-stay-retired moment came Thursday.

Mizeur released an appropriately lit video announcing that she, a Democrat, will seek her party’s nomination to halt Maryland’s lone Republican congressman, U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, from serving the fine people of Maryland’s 1st Congressional District for a seventh term.

A seventh term? Wait a moment. Do you remember that time – actually, it was several times – when Andy Harris pledged to serve no more than six terms?

Mr. Harris recently appeared on a Baltimore radio program to renege on his self-imposed term limits. He justified a seventh term under the guise of confronting a political existential crisis, orchestrated by Democrats, naturally

But Harris is apparently operating on a 20-year+ plan to fight “pushback from liberals and socialists.”

The congressman justified his campaign 360 along the lines of somebody or something having “serious threats.” He later enlisted his constituents – “the people of the 1st Congressional District” – to continue the battle against the so-called “threats.”

Whatever “serious threats” Rep. Harris is referring to, nobody seemingly knows; the congressman’s spokesperson, Walter Smoloski, failed to offer additional clarity into Harris’ remarks when asked to do so by The Baltimore Sun. 

A confluence of recent events and pivotal moments must have occurred to embolden Mizeur in her decision to come out of political retirement to challenge Andy Harris in a congressional district drawn by former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, nearly a decade ago.

Needless to say, Heather Mizeur was a member in good standing of the same Maryland General Assembly’s Democratic super-majority responsible, in addition to O’Malley, for Maryland’s current congressional boundaries. Maryland’s 1st Congressional District was drawn so that it is nearly impossible for any credible Democrat to be victorious over a Republican, especially an incumbent like Andy Harris.

The former governor and 2016 presidential candidate acknowledged in a 2018 op-ed published in USA Today that he, too, was guilty of the cardinal sin of gerrymandering. Mr. O’Malley suggests the U.S. Supreme Court should once and for all fix the mess politicians like him make and cancel partisan gerrymandering.

Mr. Harris, first elected to Congress in 2010, is known to tout his loyalty to former Republican President Donald J. Trump. It would be fair to say that Harris is one of the OG’s in the one-time politically viable tea party movement that swept Washington in 2010 on a platform to return fiscal sanity to Washington. That same year, former Ohio Congressman John Boehner was elevated to Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

Politics sure have changed quite a bit since 2010. Though it’s unclear whether John Boehner quit smoking? He certainly hasn’t quit drinking his infamous red wine. And who would blame him?

(Incidentally, “Original OG” is a cannabis strand believed to have been cultivated in California. Mizeur is a longtime vocal proponent of legislation to legalize cannabis in Maryland. Meanwhile, Mizeur’s potential Republican opponent, Mr. Harris, is pretty much persona non grata amid much of the D.C. cannabis community after aggressively interfering in the District’s recreational cannabis marketplace.)

Why would Heather Mizeur, who appears to be living a delighted and quiet life within the confines of a picturesque Eastern Shore paradise, jump back into elected politics – now, especially? It’s an absolutely miserable time in American politics. Who would ever want to be in elected office?

Mizeur’s inspiration to get back into the game begins with a date: January 6, 2021 – a day now etched into the annals of historical infamy and one that Americans and the world will remember as the day an impeached sitting and outgoing U.S. president (and others close to him) arguably rallied a cult-like cabal of American insurrectionists to storm the U.S. Capitol building, the paramount symbol of American democracy, in an ill-begotten act of unparalleled and violent sedition.

She referenced Jan. 6 in her campaign’s opening salvo: “Witnessing a treasonous insurrection against the citadel of our democracy, with the express encouragement of those bound by a constitutional oath to protect it, is an unforgivable betrayal.”

As for Andy Haris, Mizeur said the congressman’s “actions on that day [Jan. 6] alone disqualify him from representing Maryland’s 1st District.”

A Miner Detail last week emailed Mr. Harris’ congressional spokesman to inquire whether the congressman is perhaps overwhelmed by the stress of his job; being overwhelmed is an explanation most of us would accept, which could help explain the congressman’s recent behavior and public outbursts. As expected, the congressman’s office did not respond to A Miner Detail’s request for comment.

For starters, HuffPost witnessed and confirmed earlier in January that Capitol Police halted Harris from entering the U.S. House chamber when they discovered a firearm neatly tucked away in Harris’ suit jacket. HuffPost reported that Harris attempted to hand off his gun to a Republican House colleague. It was reported that Rep. John Katko of New York refused to hold Harris’ weapon, telling Harris that he did not have “a license” to carry in the District.

Then there was the Jan. 7 kerfuffle in which Harris, 64, was one of the main players.

Shortly before the U.S. House of Representatives confirmed then-President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Electoral College win, reporters claim they overheard Harris, a medical doctor by trade, taunting Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi banged her gavel to restore order. What happens on the House floor stays on the… no, scratch that, what happens on the House floor is invariably broadcasted on C-SPAN.

A Miner Detail reported in May 2020 that press poolers overheard Harris cursing at a White House advance staffer over a seating arrangement during former President Donald J. Trump’s Memorial Day visit to Baltimore’s Fort McHenry. Former Maryland Republican Party official Matthew Adams a week earlier confirmed with A Miner Detail that Harris cursed him out and threatened him after Adams published a blog post critical of Harris and his wife, Nicole Beus, a Baltimore County political and marketing consultant whom he married in 2017.

Everybody these days, so it seems, has an “Andy Harris story” to share.

Mr. Harris conveniently stepped in to fill the gaping void left when Dan Bongino departed Maryland in 2015 for sunny Florida. Of course, Maryland Republicans cannot count themselves as truly authentic unless and until they can readily recall a personal experience when Dan Bongino yelled at them, cursed them out, and later blocked them on Twitter.

Speaking of Mr. Bongino, the modern-day Florida man managed to execute only a “Half-Mooney.”

Allow us to explain.

Former Maryland state Sen. Alex Mooney, a Republican, packed his bags in 2013, leaving Maryland for heavenly West Virginia. Not shocking to anybody who knows Alex Mooney’s shrewd political prowess, Mr. Mooney, now Congressman Mooney, pulled off a stunning Republican primary victory, in 2014, in West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District.

Bongino in 2016, though, was defeated after moving to Florida and competing in a Republican congressional primary, hence the “Half-Mooney.” Resourceful as ever, Mr. Bongino eventually launched a successful conservative podcast.

(Never forget Mr. Bongino’s infamous lemonade video. To this day, many Bongino observers still believe that the former U.S. Secret Service agent, in a moment made only for internet infamy, managed to prove his masculinity beyond any shadow of a doubt in what would become an ambiguous “did he or did he not just drink his own piss” viral sensation.)

Former Del. Mizeur certainly has an expansive repository of Harris material to work with when it does come time to inundate 1st District voters with television ads and inglorious glossy campaign mailers.

Maryland voters should not count on Mizeur going negative against Harris, aside from drawing clear policy and stylistic distinctions. Ms. Mizeur largely avoided negative campaigning when she ran in the 2014 Democratic primary. At the time, her two male opponents – then Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and former Attorney General Doug Gansler – each had their own fair share of political and personal baggage.

Mizeur’s unsuccessful 2014 gubernatorial primary campaign steered clear of the negative politics-as-usual; and, while placing third in the Democratic primary, the Takoma Park Democrat-turned-Eastern Shore farmer emerged virtually unscathed and was later embraced by Democratic Party elders and activists alike as a political trailblazer and “someone to watch” in the future.

Since leaving the House of Delegates in 2015, Mizeur and her wife have since departed their progressive enclave of Takoma Park – Comptroller Peter Franchot calls it “The People’s Republic of Takoma Park” – and settled in on a 34-acre organic farm in Chestertown, Md., which, honestly, sounds like a dream.

Maryland’s Eastern Shore has little in common with the progressive activism that consumes much of Takoma Park’s hippy-dippy utilitarian lifestylists – a campaign point that Mizeur’s could-be opponent, Andy Harris, will attempt to imprint into the minds of the MAGA-friendly voters who reside in much of the 1st Congressional District.

Astute observers of Maryland politics over the last 10 years may dismiss outright the prospect that a Democrat, no matter their star power or political talent, will and could pose a serious challenge to the Republican incumbent Harris.

By law, Maryland’s congressional map is slated to be redrawn – just in time for the 2022 congressional midterm elections.

(Gov. Larry Hogan recently assembled yet another bipartisan commission for the purpose of examining and recommending congressional boundaries that mirror not a picture of a Rorschach test. In other words, Gov. Hogan is keen on eliminating political gerrymandering when the congressional boundaries are redrawn in time for the midterms. Good luck, governor.)

For a Democrat to win back the 1st Congressional District in 2022, the immortal words of Jim Carrey’s Dumb and Dumber movie character Lloyd Christmas come to mind: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”

Yeah, there is a chance.

Nobody can say for certain what the 1st Congressional District’s boundary lines will look like come next year – a point Mizeur herself acknowledges. She told The Baltimore Sun, “anything that gets us to a place where we are more in line with how the district naturally occurs makes this a competitive race.”

Andy Harris hasn’t faced a competitive general election challenge in 10 years – a fact that Maryland Democrats begrudgingly concede.

There may be some hope for Democrats in 2022, however.

Heather Mizeur is almost guaranteed to win the 1st Congressional District’s Democratic primary – or, in the very least, her entrance into the race should scare off other lesser-known Democrats eager to take on Harris in a general election matchup.

Aside from Salisbury Mayor Jacob Day – a rising political star in Maryland politics – and Len Foxwell of Easton, Maryland’s brightest political strategist who last December launched Tred Avon Strategies, the 1st Congressional District’s deep bench of credible Democratic candidates is but a fleeting fantasy.

Enter Heather Mizeur, a credible Democratic torch carrier who Democrats can and will certainly rally behind. Though Mizeur is still facing a daunting political challenge: Takoma Park and Chestertown have little in common.

This begs the question: What kind of campaign will Mizeur run?

Will she strike a balance between progressives and moderates? Mizeur’s political tone will certainly matter among Eastern Shore voters, a majority of whom – Republicans – believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump (it wasn’t).

Many of the same voters measure their representatives and candidates on a sliding-scale of obsequiousness to Donald Trump. The same majority of voters fully expect their elected representative(s) to shred every last ounce of whatever moral integrity is left within their souls. They expect – well, actually, they demand – that one must discard logic entirely, just to defend a cult of personality; the United States Constitution is secondary.

To that end, Andy Harris is the perfect representative for much of the 1st Congressional District’s loyal – and mostly white – Trump fanboy and fangirl base.

How does Heather Mizeur breakthrough to Trump-friendly voters in the 1st? And how does she plan to withstand the inevitable Andy Harris Republican attack machine?

Another question to ponder: Has Mizeur ever faced off against a competitive Republican? Sure, Republicans exist in Takoma Park, but like mystical unicorns and David Moon’s sacrilegious alternative to Old Bay, Republicans are a non-factor.

Mizeur is sure to intercept her fair share of unsolicited political advice from political outsiders (and maybe some consultants) who fail to understand Maryland’s 1st District’s fundamentals. We know the types; they believe they know best what the voters in the district desire from their elected congressperson. That’s not going to work in the 1st District. Mizeur obviously knows this.

Will Mizeur shape her campaign platform from the progressive left? Or will she moderate her tone to reach Maryland unaffiliated voters and some disaffected Republicans who have grown weary of Andy Harris’ recent public outbursts and want to move the Republican Party beyond Donald Trump?

Only Heather Mizeur can answer those questions.

Our only piece of advice for the aspiring congresswoman: Stop by early and often at Two if By Sea for a classic Eastern Shore breakfast – arguably the best on the Eastern Shore – and be sure to hit up the Scrapple Trail, another “organic” delight.

Ryan Miner is the Editor of A Miner Detail and the host of A Miner Detail Podcast. He can be reached at Ryan@AMinerDetail.com