Maryland voters make their picks for president, Senate and Baltimore mayor in 'pivotal election'

After a contentious campaign that has divided the country, Election Day brings one final showdown.

At Leisure World in Silver Spring, the massive senior housing complex, where turnout has historically been among the highest in the state, voters confront a maze of signs and campaign volunteers and sample ballots as they walk toward their polling location.


And then they get to the tables.

Volunteers for the Republican and Democratic parties faced each other at the end of a long walkway, sitting behind a Donald Trump yard sign on one side and handing out glossy Hillary Clinton handouts on the other. But volunteers said that even after such a tense, divisive election season, the atmosphere was cordial — even friendly.


"Some voters come in like this," said Donna Duke, making a frown. The retired nurse who turned 78 today and was working the Republican table. "Smile, for crying out loud. It's a good day."

Voters across Maryland made their picks at last on Tuesday, for Trump or Clinton, Senate candidates Chris Van Hollen and Kathy Szeliga, and in Baltimore, for Democratic mayoral nominee Catherine Pugh, Republican Alan Walden or Green Party member Joshua Harris.

And each voter had their own reasons, especially when voting for president.

"The appointment of the Supreme Court is extremely important," said Flo Falatko of Towson, a 58-year-old fifth grade teacher. "That was my big issue."

She chose Clinton for president. But her husband, Francis "Skip" Falatko, voted for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

"It's not as much for him as it is against the other two," said the 59-year-old C.P.A. "I'm not happy with the choices. It's really bewildering that's what we have as our two candidates."

For some voters, casting ballots meant taking part in history.

J.D. Chawla, a 49-year-old financial planner who was born in India and first immigrated to the United States in 1972, came to vote at James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring with his wife, Tammy, and two children, Hailey, 12, and Alexander, 8. He wanted to bring his kids so they could witness what could be the most important election in their lifetimes, he said.


"This is a very pivotal election, and it changes the dynamic of the future of this country and the economics of this country and the track that we will end up taking significantly," the Trump voter said.

Calling himself "a Republican through and through," Chawla said he thinks Trump's "business acumen" will allow him to steer the country in a better direction economically. He said Clinton just wants to tax the wealthy, and believes a Clinton victory will leave the country divided. He also voted for Szeliga.

Owings Mills resident Rosetta Jeje said she's known since the mid-90s that Clinton would be president. It was when the Democratic presidential nominee stood next to her husband as he admitted an affair during his presidency that Jeje knew Clinton was not going to go down in history as just a first lady scorned.

"I swear, when that happened I said … 'Oh, thanks Bill — you just made her president," Jeje said with a chuckle. "When men do something to women, we might not leave you — but we'll do something much bigger."

The 44-year-old author of "Blueblack Tears Of A Father & Child," and domestic violence survivor said she enthusiastically cast her ballot at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Baltimore County not just for Clinton, but for strong women who persevere.

"Breaking the glass ceiling — can you imagine, as women, what we're going to achieve now?" Jeje said.


In Baltimore, where the general election is often considered a formality for the Democratic nominee, local concerns were at the fore of many voters' minds.

Colleen Synk, 27, of Patterson Park, said she thought the Baltimore mayor's race was the most critical in this election cycle. She voted for Green Party candidate Joshua Harris.

"Local issues — having someone who has oversight and strong leadership on the issues that connect directly to me and the city is important," she said.

For Jeremiah Thompson, 45, a McElderry Park resident who works as a trash remover in the city, said he would write in Sheila Dixon for mayor because of her plans to increase the minimum wage to $15.

"Sheila said the magic word," Thompson said. "She's talking about raises for city workers."

But elsewhere around the region, voters were flocking to the polls to make a choice between Clinton and Trump. Both candidates have polarized voters.


"I'm extremely anti-Trump," said Shannon Nickey, a 41-year-old bartender and student from Arbutus. "He's a sexist, he's a racist, he's a misogynist, he might be a sociopath."

Laurie McNerney, 45, of West Friendship in Howard County, said she, on the other hand, is "tired of the Clinton corruption." The registered independent cited high taxes and rising health insurance costs under President Barack Obama as reasons not to support Obama's former secretary of state.

Janine Szabad of Bel Air agreed, and said she voted for Trump "because I believe he can bring change – good change."

"The last eight years didn't really make a whole lot of change, and with Trump I believe this could be something very different," she said.

Tara Priester, 46, said she worries about the fallout from such a divisive election.

"The presidential election has just been so scary," said Priester, who did not want to reveal her choice.


For Alex Bull, 44, a mother of five who works as operations director a Towson-based animation and game design studio, though, Clinton is the candidate the country needs. She chose President George H.W. Bush over Bill Clinton in 1992, but has picked Democratic presidential candidates ever since.

"I think she is the most qualified for the job," Bull said. "I think that she has devoted her life to public service, I think she has devoted her life to children's causes and women's causes. I think that it's long past the time that that was a primary focus of a president."

Despite the contentiousness of the campaign, some voters said they refused to let the candidates divide them. Jim Fay, 71, said he cast his ballot at Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Annapolis for Clinton, but that there was no animosity among his family and friends who may have opted for Trump.

"I would say it's been interesting, challenging, and thought-provoking," he said.

Maryland Policy & Politics

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Republican voters in Baltimore were hopeful that the race for City Council's 1st District could end with a GOP winner. At Hampstead Hill Academy in Canton, Democratic candidate Zeke Cohen and his Republican rival, Matt McDaniel, staked out opposite sides of the entrance along with their teams.

Albert and Lauren Smith, unaffiliated voters from Highlandtown, voted for McDaniel. Choosing between the two was tough, Albert Smith said.


"I don't think either guy is going to do a bad job," he said. Adding a Republican to the City Council for the first time since the 1940's would be good for the city.

"We've been a Democratically run city for a long time, and a lot of things are not right, in my mind, so why not shake it up a bit?" he said.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters John Fritze, Colin Campbell, Catherine Rentz, Erica L. Green, Lorraine Mirabella, Jon Bleiweis, Erika Butler, David Anderson, Michael Dresser, Doug Donovan, Yvonne Wenger and Kevin Rector contributed to this article.