Early voters begin heading to polls in unusual Maryland primary

WASHINGTON — Early voting is underway in Maryland. For the next week, early voting centers across the state will open at 10 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. in advance of the June 26 primary.

There have been unusual twists in the process leading up to Thursday’s early voting: On May 10, Kevin Kamenetz, the candidate for governor in the Democratic primary, died suddenly. His running mate, Valerie Ervin, then decided to run.

She went to court in an unsuccessful bid to get her name on the ballot at the top of the ticket with running mate Marisol Johnson’s name as the candidate for lieutenant governor. Then, with one day to go before early voting, Ervin threw her support to Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker.

The death of another candidate has also created a unique situation: Anne Arundel County Del. Ted Sophocleus, a Democrat, died suddenly on Friday, and his name remains on the ballot. There are six other candidates in the race, but he could win. If his name garners the most votes, the county’s Democratic Central Committee would choose someone to run in the general election.

Candidates for governor have been sharpening their rhetoric as June 26 approaches. The two candidates leading in the polls in the Democratic primary — Baker and former NAACP president Ben Jealous — have taken pokes at each other over the source of campaign contributions, with the Jealous campaign referring to “corporate” donations to Baker, and Baker making mention of “out-of-state” money headed to the Jealous campaign coffers.

Voters at the College Park Community Center, one of the county’s early voting centers, were greeted by dozens of eager campaign volunteers handing out campaign literature. But in many cases, those volunteers were waved off by voters who made it clear they had their minds made up.

One College Park resident who declined to identify himself said crime and transportation, particularly road improvements over transit, were a priority. Education in the county seemed to be “doing OK,” he said, but then explained his children were in private school.

“My general sense is that too much gets spent on education — it’s too much a percentage of the budget,” he said.

Joan Almon described herself as a “chronic” if unenthusiastic voter, who makes sure to vote whether or not she’s excited by any one politician. This is one of those years, she said.

“I’m concerned about who’s going to be county executive,” Almon said. “I’m concerned about who’s going to be governor.”

A former educator with a focus on early childhood education, the College Park resident said she was leaning toward voting for Baker in the Democratic primary for governor. Asked about his record on education — he’s been widely criticized over school performance and his staunch support for departing school CEO Kevin Maxwell — Almon said “education is tricky.”

Too often, Almon said, politicians approach education like a product, “and children tend not to be so linear and rational — and they’re certainly not machine-like, but we tend to treat them that way.”

So, while Baker may get her vote, Almon said, “I just think politicians have made a mess of education.”

By 4 p.m. Thursday, officials at the Maryland state Board of Elections reported that more than 23,310 votes had been cast.

Early voting continues through June 21, including Saturday and Sunday.

Election notes

  • In Baltimore County, Kevin Kamenetz’s family has decided how to distribute the $1.3 million in campaign funds he raised for his gubernatorial bid. After expenses, $915,000 will go to a college scholarship fund for graduates of Baltimore County schools. Another $250,000 will go to a cardiac-care program at Northwest Hospital in Randallstown. Money will also go to the Hippodrome Theatre and the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.
  • Campaign signs were torn down Thursday morning outside the early voting center at St. Catherine Labouré in Wheaton. No single candidate’s signs appeared to be targeted, and no police report was filed, said Marjorie Roher, Montgomery County Board of Elections, but police were contacted.

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