As early vot­ing starts to­day, cam­paigns grow more ag­gres­sive

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Luke Broad­wa­ter

Gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date Rush­ern L. Baker III gath­ered Wed­nes­day with vol­un­teers in his cam­paign’s new Bal­ti­more of­fice to mo­bi­lize their ef­forts on the eve of early vot­ing, which be­gins to­day across Mary­land.

The Prince Ge­orge’s County ex­ec­u­tive was joined at the Howard Street of­fice by a dozen elected of­fi­cials and Demo­cratic lu­mi­nar­ies, in­clud­ing for­mer Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley and for­mer Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Theodore G. Vene­toulis.

Vene­toulis told Baker’s staff that or­ga­ni­za­tional ef­forts can ac­count for 3 per­cent of a vote, enough to tilt the bal­ance in a crowded Demo­cratic pri­mary for gov­er­nor. Every­one, he said, must ac­ti­vate their net­works to get out for early vot­ing.

“Drag them out,” Vene­toulis said. “This

elec­tion is go­ing to be won by the peo­ple who get out there.”

Demo­cratic ri­val Ben Jeal­ous, mean­while, vis­ited a Bal­ti­more hair sa­lon to un­veil pro­pos­als to boost the state’s econ­omy. State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. an­nounced a $5 bil­lion school con­struc­tion plan. Kr­ish Vig­nara­jah planned to an­nounce a $350 mil­lion fund for in­fra­struc­ture projects.

Mary­land elec­tion of­fi­cials are brac­ing for in­creased turnout as early vot­ing for the pri­mary elec­tion be­gins — and cam­paigns are ral­ly­ing their sup­port­ers to fight for every vote.

The state has ex­panded early vot­ing cen­ters to 78 lo­ca­tions this year, up from 67 two years ago.

“We are ex­pect­ing an in­crease in early vot­ing,” said Nikki Baines Charl­son, deputy ad­min­is­tra­tor of the State Board of Elec­tions. “There are more early vot­ing lo­ca­tions. Gen­er­ally, as a per­cent­age of turnout, early vot­ing has gone up every year since it’s been in­tro­duced.”

Early vot­ing runs from to­day through next Thurs­day, from 10 a.m. un­til 8 p.m. at cen­ters across the state. Pri­mary Elec­tion Day is June 26. The win­ner of the Demo­cratic pri­mary will chal­lenge Repub­li­can Gov. Larry Ho­gan in Novem­ber.

There are 11 cen­ters each in Prince Ge­orge’s, Mont­gomery and Bal­ti­more coun­ties. There are seven cen­ters each in Bal­ti­more city and Anne Arun­del County and four each in Howard and Har­ford coun­ties.

K.C. Kelle­her, dig­i­tal or­ga­nizer for Com­mu­ni­ties United, said her or­ga­ni­za­tion is help­ing vot­ers get to the polls in West Bal­ti­more and in South Bal­ti­more’s Cherry Hill neigh­bor­hood.

Dur­ing early vot­ing, Mary­land res­i­dents can regis­ter and vote on the same day. To regis­ter, a voter must bring a doc­u­ment prov­ing his or her ad­dress. Same-day reg­is­tra­tion is not avail­able on Elec­tion Day.

Mary­land has 3.9 mil­lion reg­is­tered vot­ers. They in­clude 2.1 mil­lion Democrats and 1 mil­lion Repub­li­cans. More than 700,000 vot­ers are un­af­fil­i­ated.

Com­mu­ni­ties United plans to run a shut­tle through­out Cherry Hill on Fri­day to take res­i­dents to the new early vot­ing cen­ter at Carter G. Wood­son El­e­men­tary School and then throw a pool party for every­one who voted, Kelle­her said.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion works with low-in­come res­i­dents. It plans to drive a van around West Bal­ti­more on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day un­der a law ap­proved in 2016.

“We’re hop­ing to regis­ter a lot of peo­ple through same-day reg­is­tra­tion,” Kelle­her said. “There are still some in the ex-of­fender com­mu­nity who aren’t aware they are now el­i­gi­ble to vote. When you’re in prison you don’t al­ways get a steady stream of news.”

An in­crease in turnout for early vot­ing won’t nec­es­sar­ily mean more vot­ers in the elec­tion, state of­fi­cials said. The 2014 pri­mary elec­tion drew fewer than 22 per­cent of reg­is­tered vot­ers.

“For the most part we’re see­ing Elec­tion Day vot­ers go­ing to early vot­ing,” Charl­son said.

With sev­eral com­pet­i­tive races through­out the state, cam­paigns were ratch­et­ing up the rhetoric.

The Demo­cratic gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary race got a twist when for­mer Mont­gomery County Coun­cil mem­ber Va­lerie Ervin dropped out and threw her sup­port be­hind Baker.

Ervin and Baker ap­peared to­gether to an­nounce her sup­port at sep­a­rate events that at­tracted me­dia at­ten­tion in the state’s two main mar­kets — the Wash­ing­ton sub­urbs and Bal­ti­more.

Re­cent polls have shown Baker and Jeal­ous locked in a tie for the lead in the Demo­cratic pri­mary.

Ervin took aim at Jeal­ous Wed­nes­day, ac­cus­ing him of run­ning a dis­hon­est cam­paign.

“He is run­ning a cam­paign just as he would run for gov­er­nor, and that is a se­ri­ous prob­lem,” she said.

Dur­ing his own Bal­ti­more cam­paign stop Wed­nes­day, Jeal­ous an­nounced an eco­nomic devel­op­ment plan promis­ing to sup­port a $15 min­i­mum wage and gov­ern­ment jobs to peo­ple who can’t find pri­vate em­ploy­ment.

“The sort of in­ter­per­sonal stuff be­tween politi­cians, frankly, makes most vot­ers de­pressed and I re­ally don’t want to give vol­ume to that,” Jeal­ous said.

Af­ter largely re­frain­ing from crit­i­ciz­ing each other di­rectly, Jeal­ous and Baker be­gan ex­chang­ing barbs on Twit­ter this week.

Other can­di­dates said Ervin’s de­par­ture from the race added to the unset­tled na­ture of an unset­tled field. A re­cent Bal­ti­more Sun-Univer­sity of Bal­ti­more poll showed 44 per­cent of Demo­cratic pri­mary vot­ers were un­de­cided.

Some sought to grab vot­ers’ at­ten­tion by mak­ing bold prom­ises.

Madaleno’s $5 bil­lion school con­struc­tion plan is mod­eled on the $1 bil­lion ini­tia­tive to ren­o­vate and build new schools in Bal­ti­more.

Vig­nara­jah, a for­mer pol­icy ad­viser to Michelle Obama, was set to an­nounce a $350 mil­lion fund on Thurs­day for in­fra­struc­ture projects to ad­dress flood­ing in Mary­land, in­clud­ing the deadly flash flood that de­stroyed El­li­cott City’’s Main Street last month. Lo­cal races were also get­ting heated. In the Repub­li­can pri­mary for Bal­ti­more County ex­ec­u­tive, can­di­date Al Red­mer Jr. called a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day at his Ti­mo­nium cam­paign head­quar­ters to elab­o­rate on al­le­ga­tions he made against op­po­nent Del. Pa­trick L. McDonough in a re­cent TV ad.

“I’ve watched my op­po­nent now for al­most a year en­gage in some of the most brazen and shame­ful fake news cam­paign­ing that I’ve ever seen, where he just con­tin­u­ally makes stuff up,” said Red­mer, the state in­sur­ance com­mis­sioner.

McDonough coun­tered that Red­mer must be scared.

“He’s des­per­ate,” McDonough “Polls in­di­cate that he’s be­hind.”

A Sun/Univer­sity of Bal­ti­more poll re­leased this week showed that McDonough was lead­ing the race, 39 per­cent to 34 per­cent.

The cam­paign for Bal­ti­more state’s at­tor­ney — a three-way race be­tween in­cum­bent Mar­i­lyn J. Mosby and chal­lengers Ivan Bates and Thiru Vig­nara­jah — was also growing more neg­a­tive.

The three Democrats took turns blast­ing one an­other dur­ing a de­bate Wed­nes­day on Larry Young’s morn­ing ra­dio show.

“Mrs. Mosby’s record is ter­ri­ble,” said Thiru Vig­nara­jah, a for­mer city prose­cu­tor and Mary­land deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral. “Mr. Bates’ record is even worse.”

Bates, a long­time de­fense at­tor­ney, shot back.

“I don’t think he knows the dif­fer­ence be­tween North Av­enue and North­ern Park­way,” said Bates, also a for­mer city prose­cu­tor.

Mosby said Vig­nara­jah wants to win at all costs. She said Bates “put out so much mis­in­for­ma­tion that it’s un­fair for the vot­ers.”

There are com­pet­i­tive races for most of Bal­ti­more’s state Se­nate and del­e­gate seats. And vot­ers across Mary­land will vote on can­di­dates for Congress and county coun­cils and ex­ec­u­tives.

Charl­son said she ex­pected crowds this Thurs­day and then Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day of next week.

“The busiest days are the first day and the last two days,” Charl­son said. “For vot­ers who want to get in and out quickly, Satur­day and Sun­day typ­i­cally have the least traf­fic.” said.

AMY DAVIS/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Ken Kond­ner, an elec­tion board judge, moves a vot­ing ma­chine into po­si­tion Wed­nes­day at the Ran­dall­stown Com­mu­nity Cen­ter, an early vot­ing site.

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