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Openly Gay Woman Running For Governor Gets Big Campaign Boost

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EMILY's List, an increasingly powerful group that helps get progressive women elected to office, will announce on Friday that it is supporting Heather Mizeur in the race for Maryland governor. If elected, Mizeur would be the first female governor of Maryland and the first openly gay person elected governor in U.S. history.

"Heather Mizeur is a progressive powerhouse who will fight for the rights of Maryland's women and working families from day one,” said Stephanie Schriock, President of EMILY’s List. “The EMILY’s List community—now three million members strong—is excited about this glass-ceiling breaker.”

Mizeur has represented Montgomery County in the Maryland House of Delegates since 2006. She faces two better-known male opponents in next year's Democratic primary: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Douglas Gansler. The current governor, Martin O'Malley (D), cannot run again due to term limits.

Mizeur, who is viewed as the most progressive of the three candidates, has been a champion for health care reform during her time in the Maryland legislature. She led successful efforts to allow young adults to stay on their family’s insurance plans until they turn 25 and to help minors enroll in public health coverage. She also fought to increase low-income women’s access to Medicaid family planning services. President Barack Obama appointed her in 2009 to the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee and the State Legislators for Health Reform Task Force.

In 2011, Mizeur played a key role in the fight to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland, delivering an emotional speech on the House floor during the debate over the bill. She attracted media attention last month when she proposed legalizing marijuana in Maryland and using the tax revenue it generated to fund full-day pre-kindergarten education programs for 4-year-olds across the state.

Mizeur lives with her wife in Takoma Park, Maryland. They own a small business and a farm on the Eastern Shore.

While Mizeur faces a tough Democratic primary against two establishment opponents, the support of EMILY's List could make a big difference in her prospects. Since its founding in 1985, the group has raised over $350 million to help elect pro-choice female candidates across the country. EMILY's List has supported the campaigns of every single Democratic woman of color currently serving in Congress, and during the 2011-2012 cycle, it helped elect an historic number of female candidates, including 19 new women to the House of Representatives, nine senators, and 186 state and local officials.

"Having the the support of Emily's List is a great asset to our campaign and any progressive woman running for office," said Joanna Belanger, Mizeur's campaign manager. "I think their interest in Heather is a signal that women and progressives around the country are starting to take note of what Maryland families already know -- Heather Mizeur should be the next governor."

CORRECTION: This article previously stated that if elected, Heather Mizeur would be the first openly gay governor in U.S. history. In fact, she would be the first openly gay person elected governor in U.S. history. Former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey revealed he was gay while in office and continued to serve for several months after the announcement.

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