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Van Hollen visits Baltimore to tell people to vote

Rachel Baye

With Election Day less than a week away, Sen. Ben Cardin and Rep. Chris Van Hollen visited Baltimore's Lexington Market on Wednesday to remind voters to go to the polls.

The pair wound through the market at the start of the lunchtime rush. Van Hollen, the Democratic nominee to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski, introduced himself to vendors and hungry customers, while Cardin greeted several as though they were old friends.

“Election time. Trying to get people out to vote,” Cardin said. He pointed to a blue Hillary Clinton button on his lapel as he shouted the Democratic presidential nominee’s name.

Van Hollen received a warm greeting from Sykima Mobley. The 28-year-old Columbia resident had stopped into the market for a cold cut before work.

Van Hollen introduced himself, but she said she already knew who he was and was planning to vote for him. The mother of a young child, Mobley said she likes Van Hollen’s views on children and education.

While waiting for a slice of veggie pizza at Italian Stallion Pizzeria, Van Hollen struck up a conversation with Ronald Tazewell. The West Baltimore resident wanted to know what the Democratic Senate hopeful plans to do for black communities like his.

"I see nothing but schools being closed down. I see an increased police presence but not where it's needed,” Tazewell said. "We need to have a buffer between the community and the police.”

Van Hollen told him he has been working closely with the city’s black residents “on schools, more funding for community schools, trying to get afterschool programs.” He said he plans to work with Democratic nominee for mayor Catherine Pugh — Van Hollen called her “Mayor Pugh” — to improve community policing and build better relationships between police and local communities.

Still, Tazewell said he doesn’t plan to vote.

“We need to have the people that's affected by these issues running for changing these issues, and that's not what I see,” he said. “Until I see that, I'm not voting."

Patricia Patterson and Calvin Johnson shared some of that cynicism. As the couple spoke, their 3-year-old son sat perched on Johnson’s shoulders.

"I've never voted before,” Johnson said. “The world is going to be the world, however it is, and I don't think a president will affect me, per se.”

For her part, Patterson said she has voted in the past — she did in 2008 for President Barack Obama. But this year she doesn’t plan to.

“I honestly feel like this whole election thing is a little not interesting to me, and I'm more focused on my family and just enjoying each day,” she said.

For those who do plan to vote, early voting ends Thursday. Then it’s just five days until Election Day.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
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