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Bernie Sanders' office opens in Perry Hall, bringing out volunteers young and old

Bernie Sanders' office opens in Perry Hall, bringing out volunteers young and old
(Cody Boteler/For City Paper)

In the newly opened Bernie Sanders campaign headquarters in Perry Hall, Dylan Budnick, a 26-year-old state field operator for the campaign, is busy teaching people the basics of canvassing.

Time and again, people walk past the Bernie signs in the front lawn, up the wooden porch, and into the small house on Belair Road, announce how excited they are, and follow up with a warning: they've never done this before.

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"It's pretty easy," Budnick assures the volunteers. "You're just trying to put a face with the name that isn't Bernie's."

Budnick, who isn't allowed to talk to the press, walks back and forth between new volunteers and a room full of phone bankers. When Natalie Sturm, 18, and Amanda Gallagher, 17, walk in, Budnick spends a few minutes teaching them the basics: follow the map of voters and call if there are any issues.

Neither of the young women have ever been involved in politics. Sanders is the first candidate they've ever put support behind and the first they've ever volunteered for. They're a little nervous.

"I don't want people to yell at us," Gallagher said. That's why both women were relieved when Budnick told them they'd only be canvassing to registered Democrats—no potentially hostile Republicans.

"I just think that Bernie really represents my views," Gallagher said as she and Sturm set out. "I feel like he really stands up for everybody. His political determination is something that I really admire. I could see both of us going into politics in the future and kind of having a campaign like Bernie, like a grassroots campaign really relying on the people being for the people."

Meanwhile, other volunteers were laughing in the phone-banking room after they reached the realization that the only person under 30 there was Budnick.

"It's not just for the young people," Kathleen Abdelhalim, a 57-year-old and first-time-political-activist said. "It's the older people, too. We know what's good for us."

She's "never given a penny to a campaign, ever" before Sanders. She's phone banking today because she has arthritis and can't canvass. She also said she doesn't drive.

"I'd hitch a ride to get here, if I had to," Abdelhalim said.

Just before noon, former state delegate Heather Mizeur walked through the door and started working the crowd. She was there to thank them, to energize the canvassing effort.

Mizeur, who finished third in the Democratic primary for governor in 2014, is really, really into the Sanders campaign. She says that every issue she tried to advance in 2014 is being pushed by the Sanders campaign nationally.

In 2008, Mizeur waited until June to endorse a candidate, when she threw her support behind then-senator Barack Obama.

When she was asked what was most important to her about this election, she hardly took a breath before she closed her eyes, smiled, and started proselytizing.

"I have talked for so many years in politics about the need of our collective consciousness to come together and understand that we don't have to accept a rigged system," Mizeur said. "We can come together and create something different. And that is what I see as happening with the Bernie Sanders campaign and the people that are fueling it."

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"No one ever dreamed it would be possible to gather more resources by having more people giving smaller amounts of money," she continued, "that have never given in politics before, to believe in this and see a tangible example of how we can reject the way it's always been done. The closer we get to winning this overall, the closer we are to toppling that broken system for good. I think that is the most important thing."

The only time that Mizeur, a superdelegate, hesitated during an interview with City Paper is when she was asked how she'd vote if Maryland went to Hillary Clinton in the primary.

After pausing for thought, she said that it probably won't matter.

"At that point, we'll all have to rally around who the winner is," she said. "The Hillary people will have to rally around Bernie, the Bernie people will need to rally around Hillary, because at the end of the day, we have to beat Donald Trump or Ted Cruz in the general election and we need to come out of the convention a unified and fired-up party."

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