Voters kept poll workers busy in Harford County Thursday, the first day of statewide early voting in Maryland, with hundreds of people visiting the McFaul Activities Center in Bel Air and three other county locations.
Typically one of the busiest days of the eight-day early voting period, the McFaul Center stayed busy right through the lunch hour and into the early afternoon.
More than 1,000 people had voted as of 1 p.m., according to a tally posted at the door to the McFaul Center gymnasium.
Stephanie Taylor, a Harford County Board of Elections staffer and the site manager at McFaul, said people were lined up half an hour before the polls opened at 10 a.m., with the line stretching to a sign prohibiting “electioneering” within 100 feet of the entrance.
Taylor, who talked to an Aegis reporter shortly before 1 p.m., projected the total would exceed 1,000 by the top of the hour.
“It’s exciting,” Taylor said as she watched the steady flow of foot and vehicle traffic. People could park in the nearby Motor Vehicle Administration lot and either take a shuttle or walk to the polling place.
Pedestrians made their way past a thicket of campaign signs along the edge of the sidewalk and candidates and their supporters seeking their vote.
Taylor noted workers added 10 extra voting booths Thursday morning for the additional people who showed.
“It’s what we like to see,” she said of the activity.
Barbara Stratton, 83, of Bel Air, said she wanted to make sure she cast her ballot, especially so she could vote against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, running for his fifth term in the First Congressional District against Democrat Jesse Colvin.
The retired travel agent said Harris “out-Trumps Trump,” referring to the Republican U.S. president, whom Harris has supported on issues such as immigration controls, ending Obama Care and denying human climate change.
“I just think to vote is important,” Stratton said. “Everybody should vote.”
Harford County voters are choosing their county executive, all seven members of their County Council and a number of so-called courthouse races, one of which involves two Circuit Court judgeships.
The latter race has been particularly contentious, as two sitting judges appointed in the past two years by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan — Paul Ishak and Lawrence Kreis — are facing a challenge from Diane Adkins-Tobin, a deputy state’s attorney whom Hogan passed over for both appointments but who got on the general election ballot by beating one of the sitting judges in the June Democratic primary. A fourth candidate on the ballot, for which voters can pick up to two, is Thomas Ashwell, an assistant public defender, who was nominated by the Libertarian Party, which does not have a primary.
Hogan, trying to become the first Republican in 64 years to win a second term in the governor’s mansion, is being challenged by Democrat Ben Jealous. Hogan has been extremely popular in Harford. In 2014, he received almost 76 percent of the votes cast in Harford.
Other statewide offices on the ballot this year include comptroller and attorney general, currently held by Democrats Peter Franchot and Brian Frosh, respectively, who are both seeking new terms, and U.S. senator, as Democrat Ben Cardin is also seeking another term.
Harford County voters also are selecting a new state’s attorney between Republican Albert Peisinger and Democrat Carlos Taylor. The winner will replace retiring Republican Joseph Cassilly, who is retiring after 36 years.
Other races of interest on the local ballot include state Senate and House of Delegates’ seats.
There were 181,977 active registered voters in Harford County as of the end of September, according to county elections officials, including 78,438 Republicans, 64,941 Democrats, 35,695 unaffiliated and 2,903 who registered with minor parties.
Harford voters will have a major say in the in the Harris-Colvin house race, as they represent about 23 percent of the sprawling district that includes neighboring Cecil County and the eight other counties on the Eastern Shore, as well as parts of central and northern Baltimore County and northern Carroll County.
Harris, according to various candidates and their supporters who were lined up outside the McFaul Center, visited the polling place earlier on Thursday morning.
Harris, who was re-elected with 67 percent of the district wide vote four years ago, typically runs well in Harford. In 2016, he received 71 percent of the votes cast in the Harford portion of the First Congressional District which encompasses the strongly Republican central and northern parts of the county.
Voters in the southern portion of Harford will vote in the race for House of Representatives in the Second Congressional District which also includes parts of Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Howard and Anne Arundel counties. Incumbent Democrat Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger is seeking a ninth term and is opposed by Republican Liz Matory, Libertarian Michael Carney and Green Party candidate Guy Mimoun.
Not all Hogan Country
Richard and Lydia Haney, of Havre de Grace, voted Democratic in the Maryland governor’s race.
Richard Haney, a 49-year-old civilian researcher at Aberdeen Proving Ground, said he thinks Democrat Jealous is “more progressive” than incumbent Republican Hogan.
“I like Hogan, but the party that he’s in right now has really gone off the rails, and they won’t police themselves,” Haney said.
He said voting the way he and his wife did is “the only way that you can really make your voice heard.”
Lydia Haney, 42, and a homemaker and home-school teacher to her one child, agreed.
“I wanted to stand by the Democrats because they need to be supported,” she said.
Both like Jealous’ position on health care for all Marylanders.
Richard Haney said he receives health insurance through his employer, the MITRE Corp., with contributions from him and MITRE. He said he pays more than $400 per pay period for a family plan, though, which does not include prescription drugs.
Lydia Haney called the cost of medications “outrageous.”
“I’ve noticed that the cost of health care keeps growing exponentially every year,” Richard said.
Moms for sons
Harford County Councilman Chad Shrodes, a Republican who represents northern Harford County in District D, was out greeting voters, along with his mother, Lynne Howell. Shrodes is running for a fourth term.
“I was here every day driving the primary [in June], and here I am again today,” Howell said.
Howell worked alongside Rose Kreis, 77, mother of judicial candidate Kreis, who was appointed to the bench last year by Hogan.
“He’s the best for the job,” Kreis said of her son. “It says here in his brochure.”
She said that “what he says is true; he stands for his word, and that’s what you need in a judge.”
Rose Kreis lives in Perry Hall, so she cannot vote in Harford County.
“I can’t vote for my own son, but I’ll do what I can for him to help,” she said.
Dwight Perry, of Edgewood, stood along the access drive from MacPhail Road to the Bel Air MVA parking lot. He greeted voters as they walked to and from the polling place.
“I’m glad you used your right [to vote], now!” he called to one woman as she departed.
Perry had his 14-month-old-granddaughter, Gracie Marshall, with him.
He said she was with him as he cast his vote earlier in the day.
“It’ll be something that she’ll remember for a long time,” Perry said.
Perry said he was out to support Democratic candidates, such as Andre Johnson, Bridgette Johnson and Wini Roche, who are running for Harford County Council districts that include Route 40, a part of Harford County residents and which prior elected officials feel had been neglected over the years.
“That’s the heart of Harford County,” Perry said.
The Army veteran and member of VFW Post 6054 in Aberdeen said veterans’ issues are an important national issue for him. Perry said he had lobbied on Capitol Hill regarding such issues.
He said he saw Rep. Harris at the polling place earlier.
“He remembers me from being in his office,” Perry said.
Early voting information
In addition to McFaul Center, Harford has early voting centers at the Aberdeen Fire Department main station on N. Rogers Street, the Edgewood Library on Edgewood Road and the Jarrettsville Library on Jarrettsville Road.
The centers are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day of the early voting period which runs through next Thursday, Nov. 1.
For the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, polling places around the county will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.