UPDATED: 9:22 a.m.

Luke Broadwater reports:

Voters took to the polls this morning, casting their ballots for Baltimore mayor in a crowded race that could change the direction of the city.

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At Fort Worthington Elementary School in East Baltimore, 44 people had voted within the first hour, election judges said.

East Baltimore resident Lisa McCray said she had nothing against Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, but preferred challenger Catherine Pugh, a state senator.

"I like her outlook on things," McCray said of Pugh. "She's going to be able to change things."

McCray said the most important issues for her were the schools and crime.

Angela Lyles, 46, of East Baltimore, said she voted for the mayor, who assumed the position once her predecessor Mayor Sheila Dixon was forced to step down after a corruption trial.

"I want to give her a full term," Lyles said of Rawlings-Blake. "She needs to get a fair chance."

Robert and Margaret Jackson -- an East Baltimore couple married for 56 years -- said they came out to the polls early to vote for the candidates, including Rawlings-Blake, endorsed by the AFL-CIO union.

Robert Jackson, 77, said he believed Rawlings-Blake could help improve schools, while his wife said she earned respect for the mayor when Rawlings-Blake attended an event for adult illiteracy.

"That made me see her in a positive light," Margaret Jackson said.

City Council President Jack Young stopped by the polling station to greet election judges, he said.

Young said he had been driving around to bus stops encouraging people to vote.

"I know they're predicting light turnout but I hope that's not the case," he said.

Young, who faces multiple challengers to his seat, said he did not take the race lightly.

"People need to get out and exercise their right to vote," he said.

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At Hazelwood Elementary and Middle School, 138 people had voted in the first two hours -- which election judge Frances Carr called "sort of light."

Channon Rankin, 29, a former police officer who is now a student, said she voted for Rawlings-Blake, because of her work in criminal justice.

"She's in the neighborhoods. I see her throughout the city. Unlike Catherine Pugh, she wants to add more police to Baltimore's streets," Rankin said of Rawlings-Blake. "She has a better rapport with police [than past mayors]. Crime is going down. She's really been effective."

A retired couple, Angelo and Anita Nucci, said they were voting for Landers because of his focus on tax rates.

"He's new but he's been around a while," said Angelo Nucci, a retired brick layer who helped build the school in which he was standing. "The city will never grow if taxes are so high."

But Mike Perkins, 61, said Pugh was the best alternative to Rawlings-Blake.

"We need some changes," he said, adding that he supports Pugh's tax reduction plans. "Stephanie Blake is a rubber stamp."

Outside the polling place, City Council candidate Brandon Scott greeted voters. He said he chose the location because it had the third-most voters in the city last election.

"They've been coming in bunches," he said of turnout.

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