Harford voters go to the polls in primary election

Primary Election Day in Harford County dawned sunny and pleasant Tuesday, as more than 130,000 eligible Republicans and Democrats had their final opportunity to pick their parties’ nominees for state and county offices and congressional seats.

Elizabeth Pennington, 39, of Kingsville, brought her 5-year-old son, Joshua, and 2-year-old daughter, also named Elizabeth, to the polls at Fallston Middle School.

“No matter what happens, I think it’s important to share your voice and show your children that it’s important to vote,” she said.

The registered Democrat, who teaches social studies at the private Notre Dame Preparatory School in Baltimore County, said it was difficult to choose among the many Democratic candidates for governor — she declined to say who she voted for in that race.

“I think there’s a lot of good candidates, and I think that they have a lot of good things to say, they have diverse backgrounds ... I just found it to be hard to choose, frankly,” she said.

Fifty-two voters had cast ballots at Fallston Middle as of 9 a.m., including 22 Democrats and 30 Republicans, according to vote totals posted in the polling place.

Patricia Skebeck, 75, of Kingsville, is a registered Democrat who voted at Fallston Middle School Tuesday morning.

She is a retired Harford County Public Schools teacher, administrator and director of elementary education who served as interim superintendent of schools in 2008-09.

She declined to say who she voted for in the Democratic primary for governor, but she ranked it as one of the races that is most important to her, along with Harford County executive and Board of Education.

The school board races will not happen until the general election in November, since the candidates are nonpartisan and those races only have one or two candidates for each seat.

“Some of the people [in office] ... they did a good job and for some of the others, I think we need a change,” Skebeck said.

She said she thinks Barry Glassman, the Republican incumbent county executive who is being challenged in the primary by County Councilman Mike Perrone, is doing a “pretty good job.”

I don’t know whether I’ll vote for him or not,” she said of Glassman. “I’ll have to wait and see [until the general election]. I’ll see what falls out after everything is done.”

Cynthia Gribbin, 58, of Fallston, brought her 19-month-old grandson, Graham Jordan, with her to the polls at Fallston High School.

“I want to be able to continue to vote, but I don’t think I’m a strict party voter anymore,” said Gribbin, a registered Republican.

Gribbin said she wanted to “vote for the people I thought were the best candidates, and then I’ll re evaluate for the [general] election.”

“I just feel like a lot a lot of women worked very hard for me to be able to vote, so that’s why I’m here today,” she said, citing figures such as Susan B. Anthony who fought a century ago for women to gain the right to vote.

Joshua Barlow, one of 13 candidates to be a Republican Party nominee in the District 7 House of Delegates race, stood near the high school among other candidates or their supporters, who all tried to talk with voters and hand them campaign literature.

Barlow, a resident of Monkton, touted the fact that he has not taken any contributions from lobbying groups, individuals only.

He said he think he has been “pretty competitive” despite having less money than his opponents.

“It’s sad to see money taking precedence over principle,” he said, while taking not of the low turnout Tuesday morning. “I’m hoping the afternoon brings out more people getting off work,” he said.

Barlow wore a bright red "Make America Great Again" cap and said he is a supporter of Republican President Donald Trump and Maryland's incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

"How can you argue with peace and prosperity?" he asked.

Important to vote

Harford County’s incumbent sheriff, Republican Jeffrey Gahler, does not have a primary opponent, but he still visited polls throughout the county, including Fallston Middle School.

“It’s important to me, it’s important to my team, that the voters come out and participate in the election process,” Gahler said as he greeted voters.

Teen volunteers with the campaign of David Ryden, one of four Republican candidates for Harford County state’s attorney, held poles with campaign signs for Ryden, Gahler and Aaron Penman, a Republican candidate for state delegate in Legislative District 7, affixed to them. They greeted voters and handed out campaign literature.

“It’s a lot slower than it usually is,” Emily Schneider, 17, of Forest Hill, said of the morning turnout.

Schneider said she has been working on political campaigns since childhood. The registered Republican said she was able to vote for the first time Tuesday, since she will be 18 by the general election.

“It was exciting, now we can finally make a difference, politics-wise,” she said. “Now we have a voice.”

Her fellow volunteer, Brandon Mikolaichik, 18, of Fallston, also voted in his first election.

“If you’re sitting there complaining about something you don’t like, now you have a chance to do something about it and change things for the better,” Mikolaichik, a registered Republican, said.

More than 13,600 voters had cast ballots in Harford County as of 4 p.m., with 58 of Harford’s 61 polling places reporting in, according to Stephanie Taylor, a project manager with the county Board of Elections.

Taylor said 7,838 Republican voters had cast ballots, compared with 5,795 Democrats, with about four hours left to go until the polls closed at 8 p.m. There were more than 9,500 ballots cast during the eight days of early voting that ended June 21.

Election judges and campaign volunteers at polling places at Fallston Middle School, Fallston High School, Bel Air Elementary School and Meadowvale Elementary School reported slow but steady turnout in the morning and afternoon.

That was the case countywide, according to Dale Livingston, deputy director of the Harford Board of Elections, who blamed the time of the election with many people on vacation and less interest in non-presidential elections.

“It’s just a slow election,” Livingston said.

Elections officials have not seen a large number of requests for provisional ballots, either.

“We’re not getting this big rush or deluge for provisional ballots,” Kevin Keene, the county elections director, said.

The number of provisional ballots distributed in Harford will not be known until later Tuesday night, according to Taylor.

Keeping Harford rural

Among the slow trickle of voters that passed through the Jarrettsville Library Tuesday morning were residents who turned out to support candidates who would keep Harford County rural.

The library was one polling place where a race for state delegates representing District 7 in western Harford and eastern Baltimore counties was at the top of voters’ minds.

Sue Becraft, a Republican from Street, was wearing an American flag pin when she came to the library to vote Tuesday morning.

The 62-year-old said she was comfortable with the county’s local leadership, but more concerned about representation in Annapolis.

District 7 voters could cast ballots for up to three of the 13 Republicans running for seats in the House of Delegates. One seat is open because incumbent Pat McDonough is running for Baltimore County executive; the other two incumbents, Republicans Kathy Szeliga and Rick Impallaria, are seeking new terms.

Becraft said she voted for Szeliga, Lauren Arikan and David Seman.

Kurt Frevel, a 34-year-old from Jarrettsville, was also interested in the state delegates’ race.

“Because there’s an open spot and there seems like there’s a lot of people going for that, I want to make sure that my vote represents the way that I want our community to be represented,” said Frevel, a Republican.

Frevel said he moved to Jarrettsville from Perry Hall eight years ago because it was less developed, and he wants to see officials in office who would preserve the area’s farmland. He declined to say who he voted for.

“It’s very important, especially for Jarresttville, because our farms and our communities are at risk right now, and development is a big thing,” he said. “People who live in Jarrettsville – I would say the majority and everyone I talk to – they all want everything to stay rural.”

Other voters like Donna Horoschak, a Republican from Jarrettsville, echoed his sentiment.

“I’m big on keeping Harford County rural,” Horoschak, 54, said. “I grew up on a dairy farm, so I want to keep the farms here in Harford County. So I made sure my votes go to the people that are protecting the farmlands.”

Party doesn’t matter

Democrat Jon Cupp, of Bel Air, said it didn’t matter that most of the Harford races are in the Republican primary. He still came out to vote.

“It doesn’t make any difference. You’re supposed to vote, you should vote,” the 70-year-old said at the Prospect Mill Elementary precinct mid-morning.

“It’s our right. If people just take it for granted, that it’s not going to make a difference, why bother?” he said. “It’s important for all of us to vote, as has been proven a couple different times in different races.”

While he’s a regular voter, the race for governor drew Cupp to Tuesday’s primary.

He had planned to vote for the late Kevin Kamenetz, but after Kamenetz died, Cupp said he had to do his homework to find the right candidate.

“I’m not crazy about anybody,” Cupp, who voted for Ralph Jaffe, said.

In the general election, however, Cupp said he’ll vote for incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan, who’s surprised him.

“He’s not as extreme as I expected,” he said of the Republican governor. “He’s great as far as I’m concerned.”

Michael McFerren, of Bel Air, said he is interested in the race for county executive, “because they control, or attempt to control, the purse strings.

“I pay a lot of taxes in Harford County, so I figure I want to have a say in how it’s being spent,” McFerren, the owner of the Chick-fil-A restaurants in Aberdeen and Abingdon, said at the Prospect Mill precinct. “I don’t have a say down to the dollar, but I can agree or disagree on different philosophies.”

A Republican, who has a decal on the back of his car that says “My big gun family,” McFerren also was interested in the state’s attorney’s race, where four Republicans and one Democrat are seeking to succeed Republican Joseph Cassilly, who is retiring from that role after 36 years.

“They’re the ones that send the trend or precedence when it comes to prosecutorial matters,” McFerren said, while declining to say who he voted for among Republicans Lisa Marts, Albert Peisinger, David Ryden and Steven Trostle.

“I’m a firm believer in rule of law and I want that upheld and the person I voted for I think will do that,” McFerren said.

Registration SNAFU minimal

Republican voter Rob Hruz, 56, of Bel Air, cast his ballot at Bel Air Elementary School Tuesday afternoon. He is a self-employed real estate appraiser for the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.

He said he supports David Ryden for the Republican nomination for state’s attorney. Ryden is one of retiring State’s Attorney Joe Cassilly’s deputies.

“I like what Ryden has done for Joe Cassilly, and I think he needs a fair shake,” Hruz said.

He said he also supports Jan Christensen, one of three candidates challenging incumbent Republican Del. Susan McComas in the District 34B legislative race, and Susan Burdette, the Bel Air mayor and one of three Republican candidates running for the District C seat on the Harford County Council.

Hruz said he likes what both candidates stand for. He praised Burdette as “hard working for the community.”

Hruz said it was an easy process to vote at Bel Air Elementary, simply filling out his ballot.

“You’re just filling in the dot — that’s it,” he said. “It was very easy and smooth.”

There had been 180 ballots cast at the school as of noon Tuesday, with 84 Democratic and 96 Republican ballots, according to the posted vote totals.

“It’s steady, it’s slow,” Amy Wagner, a chief Republican election judge, said. “I just don’t think local elections seem to draw the numbers like the presidential [race] or things like that.”

Shelby Getz, the Democratic chief judge, said his polling place had not been affected so far by statewide issue that has forced tens of thousands of voters to use provisional ballots because of an MVA computer issue that caused registration changes made at MVA kiosks to not get sent to local boards of elections.

Only one person had requested a provisional ballot so far, and that was because they did not have transportation to their assigned polling place. The voter was allowed to vote at Bel Air Elementary using the provisional ballot, Wagner said.

Steady in Havre de Grace

Rebecca Jackson, 18, and her mother, Laura von Muehlen, 48, of Havre de Grace, cast ballots at Meadowvale Elementary School in the mid-afternoon.

Both are registered Democrats, and this is the first election in which Jackson has voted has been old enough to vote – she said she wished she could have voted in the 2016 presidential election, when Republican Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“It was cool,” Jackson said of the experience. “It makes me feel like an adult; taxes do that, too.”

Jackson, a 2017 graduate of Havre de Grace High School works at Walmart in Aberdeen and takes classes online at Harford Community College. She said she attended Meadowvale Elementary and later Havre de Grace Middle School.

Her mother, von Muehlen, worked for Barnes & Noble bookstores for many years. She said she is looking for a new career.

“I think voting is important, because we live in a society in which representation is one way that our voice can be heard,” von Meuhlen said.

She thinks “voting is the bare minimum required of us as citizens,” and there are many more things American citizens can do to help society.

“You can at least take the time to vote and make it matter, because there are a lot of societies in the world in which people can’t choose,” von Meuhlen said.

“We have not had any crowds, but it has been steady,” Zilpha Smith, the Democratic chief judge at Meadowvale, said of the turnout.

Few provisional ballots had been distributed. Smith recalled one voter needed one because the voter had changed addresses two years ago, putting the voter at the Meadowvale polling place, however, the address in the officials’ system was the voter’s prior residence.

“Hopefully, by November [the voter list] should be straightened out,” Smith said.

She said voters should know their polling places, which are listed on voter registration cards mailed out by the Harford County Board of Elections.

“We need to make sure that voters are aware of where the districts are, where the lines are,” Smith said.

avought@theaegis.com

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