Screen shot 2014-06-11 at 5.19.21 PMAs everybody knows, Tea Party-backed candidate Dave Brat beat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Republican Congressional primary in Virgina, marking one of the biggest political upsets in history. (My favorite tweet on the matter, from Mother Jones senior editor Dave Gilson, @daudig: "Brat Upsets Cantor' is the name of my bar mitzvah memoir.") A lot of the bloviation today focuses, as it often has in recent years, on the Republican Party's rightward drift and the disappearing middle in American politics. This got us thinking about Maryland and our forthcoming primary elections on June 24, particularly the gubernatorial race. Could Del. Heather Mizeur pull the same kind of upset that Brat pulled? There are some interesting parallels between the two races. Mizeur, like Brat, is a grassroots favorite being vastly outspent by her opponents. Her main rival, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, like Cantor, is an entrenched politico who often speaks in smooth-toned cliches and soundbites. Most interestingly, the most recent polls in the Maryland race show Mizeur losing badly, but gaining momentum quickly, a similar trend to the polls in the Virginia Congressional race before primary day. In the Maryland poll, conducted by OpinionWorks for The Baltimore Sun from May 30 to June 3, Brown had the support of 41 percent of voters, followed by 20 percent for Attorney General Doug Gansler and 15 percent for Mizeur, but 24 percent of voters were still undecided. And, as president of OpinionWorks Steve Raabe points out, Mizeur was picking up voters fast:
While Mizeur's grass-roots campaign continues to run in third place, the poll suggests she has the most momentum, Raabe said. Nearly a quarter of Mizeur's supporters said they made up their minds to vote for her within the week before the poll was conducted — more than either of the other Democrats' supporters.
In Virginia, a poll conducted by McLaughlin & Associates just days before the primary showed Cantor leading Brat 62 percent to 28 percent—a 34-point lead, as opposed to Brown's 26-point lead in the Sun poll. Another poll in the Virginia race released on the same day as the McLaughlin poll showed Cantor leading 52-41, just an 11-point lead, but both polls showed a much smaller group of undecided voters than appeared in the Maryland poll, and both were conducted much closer to the primary date. It would still be a hell of an upset for Mizeur to beat Brown in the Maryland Democratic primary. But her progressive agenda and energetic campaign, detailed in Van Smith's January cover story "The Quiet Revolution," have excited Maryland's grassroots left like no candidate in recent memory. And on the heels of recent progressive victories in the state, including marriage equality, banning the death penalty, and decriminalizing weed, the Democratic base could be motivated to turn out in force for a genuine progressive candidate. And while Brown has the endorsement of Governor Martin O'Malley, who spearheaded many of those victories, his campaign hasn't seemed to generate much genuine buzz. As so often happens in Maryland's Democratic machine, he just seems like the establishment candidate whose turn has come up. Undoubtedly, some Democratic voters were on the fence about supporting Mizeur, thinking she didn't have a chance, but maybe Brat's victory will give them a reason to believe she could pull it off.