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For Some Voters, Local Races Turn on National Issues

Maryland voters flocked to the polls Tuesday, despite the miserable weather, to cast ballots for governor, state representatives and a host of local officials.

But in some ways, the election was as much about national politics as it was local races.

Natasha Wright, who voted at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Frederick, said she likes Governor Larry Hogan; she thinks he’s doing a good job. But the actions of others in his party trouble her.

“Some of the initiatives that’s been going on down on Capitol Hill has really impacted my view on who sits in office and what they do or don’t do,” she said.

And that led her to vote for Democrat Ben Jealous for governor.

She was hardly alone. Robert Mack, who voted at Ballenger Creek Elementary School, just south of Frederick, said he thinks Hogan’s doing “an excellent job,” but he wanted to “send a message” to Republicans to “do a little more to reign it in what is done at the top level.”

And Joe Fitzpatrick, who was voting at Cromwell Valley Elementary School said he might have voted for Hogan “if he wasn’t a Republican…Trump doesn’t do it for me at all.”

But Mike Voorhis, who also voted at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Frederick, had a different take on things. The 29-year-old said he’s voted Democratic “my whole life,” but he went Republican this year because the Democrats had become what he called “undignified.”

“I think that at this point in time, anyway, the Republican Party has a better vision,” he reasoned. “And, like I said, they’re more dignified in their approach to it.”

He cited Democrats who have harassed Republican officials in restaurants and the fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

This doesn’t mean it was all about national issues. Paulette Daniels, who voted at Gilmor Elementary School in Sandtown-Winchester, is a registered Democrat, but she said she voted for Hogan.

“The governor has done a lot that I have seen, and during the riots and stuff, I saw his face,” she said, referring to the riots after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. “You know, so that shows that it doesn't matter what y'all are, you can be really concerned about the people that you're serving, and that made me feel good. That's why I voted for my man."

Annie and Scott Stone were split ticket voters at the Roosevelt Recreation Center in Hampden.

Annie says she voted for Ben Jealous just to raise her hand and remind Governor Hogan “he’s red in a blue state.”

Scott, on the other hand, says he usually votes Democratic, but he thinks Hogan’s done a pretty good job, “especially with this new amendment that if it passes for all the casino funds to go into education, it will greatly improve our state.”

Hogan initially opposed the state constitutional amendment that would require that gambling revenues slated for schools be used to supplement existing money rather than replace it, but he changed his mind after the General Assembly passed it.

At Hollywood Elementary School in College Park, Angelique Mosley voted for Governor Hogan at the top of the ticket, but then for Democrats farther down the ballot. What mattered most to her, she says, was her son with special needs. And she doesn’t think Ben Jealous has a plan for him.

“I’m really big on education because I’m a special needs parent,” she said. “I have several parents in the PG County schools system that have special needs, and I don’t think he paid enough attention to that, and that was the deciding factor for me.”

Among those down ballot races is the Republican effort to end the Democrat’s veto proof majority in the state senate by flipping five seats. They call it the “drive for five.”

And the center of that effort is in Baltimore County’s 42nd District, where Republican Delegate Chris West and Democrat Robbie Leonard are vying to replace Democrat Jim Brochin, who gave up the seat in a losing run for County Executive.

West, who was greeting voters in the rain at Cromwell Valley Elementary School, said it would be nice if the two parties worked things out together. But if the Democrats have the votes to override a Republican governor’s vetoes, they have no incentive to work collaboratively with the other party, he argued.

"So if we elect a few more Republican senators and the veto override won’t work it means everybody’s going to have to work together even more than they have in the past,” he said. “And I think that’s good for the state.”

But Leonard, who was campaigning under a red and white umbrella outside Stoneleigh Elementary School, said that Brochin had been pivotal in passing significant legislation and Democrats can’t afford to lose that seat.

He listed the “big gun legislation that came after Sandy Hook,” approving same sex marriage and funding for Planned Parenthood as some of the more significant measures.

“These are things if we don’t hold onto the seat, we’re not going to have those things and we just can’t take it for granted,” he fretted.

Throughout the day, there were occasional reports of glitches at various polling places.

The ACLU's Amy Cruice said Federal Hill Prep opened about 15 minutes late because poll workers couldn't get into the building. At least one person left this morning without voting because she had to go to work. There were long lines at Matthew Henson Elementary School near Mondawmin. It opened late because workers needed to set up the ballot machines.

Ballot machines were down at a polling place in Deale in southern Anne Arundel County because of a power outage. Voters submitted paper ballots there until the machine could be brought back online.

And at Eastport Elementary in Annapolis, the ramps for disabled people led to a locked door, making the building inaccessible to people who couldn't use the stairs. The ACLU called the State Board of Elections, who sent someone to the polling site.

Joel McCord is a trumpet player who learned early in life that that’s no way to make a living.
Mary Rose is a reporter and senior news producer for 88.1 WYPR FM, a National Public Radio member station in Baltimore. At the local news desk, she assigns stories, organizes special coverage, edits news stories, develops series and reports.
Rachel Baye is a reporter for WYPR's newsroom.
John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County.
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