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In chaotic 2016 election, Baltimore Greens hope to harness voter frustration

"We need to change the way our politics are run." Baltimore Greens hope to capitalize on voter frustration

In an election year when political outsiders have disrupted both Republican and Democratic presidential races, a slate of longshot candidates in Baltimore is hoping to ride the wave of voter frustration and legitimize their long-discounted third party: the Greens.

Voters stepped from a light drizzle into the Baltimore Green Party headquarters on East 23rd Street to cast their ballots for candidates for mayor, City Council, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and president in the party's primary Sunday. Others voted by mail-in ballot.

All of the party's primary races in Maryland are uncontested, except for mayor of Baltimore, which featured three candidates, Joshua Harris, David Marriott and Emanual McCray. Harris won the mayoral nod with 85 percent of the vote to McCray's 7 percent and Marriott's 3 percent and The winner will face Democratic state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh and Republican Alan Walden in the general election.

"For too long in Baltimore, the general election has not been a place where voters actually have choices, so our first goal is to give them legitimate choices on the ballot," Baltimore Green Party co-chair Andy Ellis said.

Democrats, who have long controlled Maryland politics, vastly outnumber the Green Party — more than 200 to 1 in Baltimore and 276 to 1 across the state.

The city has nearly 25 times as many registered Republicans as Greens; statewide, it's 100 to 1.

Those odds didn't dissuade Rebecca Feldberg from voting Green.

The 65-year-old arborist, who lives in Reservoir Hill, said she's watched, disappointed, as the Democratic Party has moved to the center on a variety of issues.

Feldberg said her liberal friends always find themselves voting for the lesser of two evils. One encourages her every four years to switch her affiliation to Democrat, she said, "just for the election."

"She doesn't really understand the importance of a third party," Feldberg said. "I think we have to keep fighting. ... If you have a strong candidate, there's potential for us to be noticed."

Victoria Pennacchia, 49, a grant manager who lives in Ednor-Gardens, said she convinced her father and stepmother to become Greens to vote for Ralph Nader in the 2000 presidential election.

The party gained national attention when Nader received 2.7 percent of the vote and Republican George W. Bush defeated Democrat Al Gore by a razor-thin margin.

Jill Stein, of Massachusetts faces William Kreml, of South Carolina in this year's Green Party presidential primary.

Pennacchia said she was excited to see three Green mayoral candidates on the 2016 ballot in Baltimore.

"The Green Party is important to me because it's the combination of enviromental, social justice, labor, minorities — it sort of hits all the things that are important to me," she said.

Chris Croke, 66, of Bolton Hill, said Baltimore suffers from a lack of social justice that can be remedied by elected officials who are more community-oriented. He said he has been voting Green since 2008.

The retired trade show industry worker said the environment and education, particularly a "school-to-prison pipeline" that criminalizes the city's poor black youth, are his top concerns.

"We need to change the way our politics are run, the way our government is run," Croke said. "I believe the best way to accomplish that is through the Green Party."

Outside of the mayor's race, nine Green Party candidates were on the ballot in Maryland Sunday.

Connor Meek, who wrote a widely discussed opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun about being mugged on his bicycle while a nearby police station was closed, is running for City Council president.

Five other Green candidates will vye for City Council seats in the general election: Andreas "Spilly" Spiliadis in District 3; Richard T. White in District 6; Jamie Frierson in District 9; Amanda Maminski in District 10 and Ian Schlakman in District 12.

To win a seat in Congress, the two Green candidates will have to beat strong Democratic incumbents. Nnabu Eze will run against Rep. John Sarbanes in a race for the state's 3rd congressional district, while Myles Hoenig will take on Rep. Elijah E. Cummings in the 7th.

Margaret Flowers will face Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Republican Kathy Szeliga in the general election to fill retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski's seat.

This story has been updated to correct an error in the ratio of Democrats to Greens statewide.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6

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