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Live blog: Maryland Primary Day 2010 morning -- Mikulski ready for general-election fight

Christopher Dean Hopkins

Good morning and welcome to Election Day, when members of Maryland political parties will head to the polls to pick nominees for U.S. senator, U.S. representative, governor and an array of other state- and county-level positions (see the Voters Guide for information about all the races and candidates). It's expected to be a nice one. Keep an eye on the Maryland Politics blog throughout the day for the latest updates and scenes from the campaigns and polling places.

Top stories: Mikulski ready for a fight; Brian Murphy confident of chances; no love for candidates at Leisure World

Here's what you need to know to vote:

Poll Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Poll Location: Find yours
Check your voter registration status

Let us know what you see out there online, by e-mail, Twitter or photograph.

Updates will continue in a new thread.

UPDATE 3:33 p.m.: Eleanor Andrews bolts out of her American flag-colored lawn chair as a car pulls into the parking lot of Edgar Allen Poe Academy.

"Let's vote," she says, waving a JoAnn Benson for State Senate pamphlet at the car's driver.

Andrews, a Suitland resident for the last 40 years, has been stationed in the parking lot since the polls opened this morning, encouraging Prince George's County voters to cast a ballot for the Democratic candidate. The problem is, there haven't been many people to encourage.

"It's consistent and steady, which is encouraging," said Frederick Hancock, Democratic Election Judge at the precinct, "but yeah, it's been slow."

With a little more than 100 ballots cast at 11:30 a.m., "really slow" might be a better way to describe it, said a neighboring election judge.

Hancock isn't discouraged -- he has volunteered for the past three elections, and 2008's turnout admittedly was "off the hook" he expects the crowds to improve, as it has in previous years, when voters get off work later in the afternoon.

Early voting, which accounted for 15,000 ballots in Prince George's County, also has lessened the early morning turnout, he suspects.

Andrews, who voted early this morning, agrees.

"Four years ago we were bombarded; two years ago we were bombarded," she says. "This year is different."

-- Nathan Rott

UPDATE 3:05 p.m.: Video: Voters head to the polls in Prince George's County to select a successor for County Executive Jack Johnson.

UPDATE 2:13 p.m.: Joanna Fahnbulleh looked out across the voter-free library parking lot in Silver Spring and remembered what it was like in November 2008 voting for Obama.

"I had a chair," said the 72-year-old retired home-health aide, who left Liberia to get away from civil war. "We were like way over there. It was a long line, then finally I cast my vote."

Today she strolled right up in her floppy red hat. "It's our obligation as Americans. It's an opportunity for me to take part."

It was some effective voter outreach and old-fashioned retail politicking that netted Fahnbulleh's approval.

"I don't really know some of these council members. There are a few I know who contacted me by calling. Those are the ones I voted for," she said. "Leventhal, I know him. I've seen him in the Silver Spring parade."

In addition to Incumbents George Leventhal and Nancy Floreen, she also picked "the young fella," aka challenger Hans Riemer. She liked the literature he sent out, and that photograph with his smiling young family. "I just thought he had potential," she said.

One more to go.

"I think I added her, Becky," she said, Becky Wagner, for no big reason, "just to make up the fourth number, that's all."

-- Michael Laris

UPDATE 1:14 p.m.: James Bartley, 71, of Upper Marlboro, was surprised at the speed with which he entered and exited the polls at Perrywood Elementary School around lunchtime.

"There should have been a couple of people in front of me," he said.

Bartley said he voted for Rushern Baker because "I thought he was the best-qualified."

Some campaign workers wondered what a low turnout could ultimately mean for their candidates.

"If it stays this way, I think it will show that the citizens are just fed up with things as they are and they don't have hope," said Terry Speigner, the former head of the county's Democratic Central Committee.

-- Ovetta Wiggins

UPDATE 12:54 p.m. Because election days aren't holidays, many people have to squeeze voting in before or after they go to work. The same is true for Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who was able to make some quick stops at polling places in Baltimore on Tuesday morning before heading south to the Capitol, where the Senate was in session and voting on a small-business lending bill.

Polling places in Baltimore were busy, Mikulski reported in a midday telephone interview, and "from what I'm hearing from my volunteer network there's very good turnout in Prince George's and Montgomery county. The rural counties are a little slow coming in, but it's a beautiful day and people are showing up. ... We expect the big rush to start around 4 p.m. when people start to come home from work."

Most of the voters she saw this morning were senior citizens, Mikulski said, adding that she heard a lot of concern about the fate of Social Security. She said she planned to visit polling stations around Prince George's County this afternoon and then - "traffic willing" - in Montgomery County.

Mikulski is expected to secure the Democratic nomination with ease against six opponents. Eleven Republicans are vying for the right to face her in the fall, with Queen Anne's County Commissioner Eric Wargotz and attorney Jim Rutledge the best-known contenders.

Though incumbents across the country are nervous this election cycle, Mikulski sounds eager for a general-election fight.

"Nobody's going to sneak up on Barbara Mikulski," she said. "I'm out there listening to voters. ... We'll be ready for whatever opponent I have."

-- Ben Pershing

UPDATE 12:36 p.m. Volunteers standing with campaign literature outside Kettering Baptist Church outnumbered the voters insided the polling place on Tuesday.

"It's been very, very, very slow," said Lucinda Davenport, who made a bet with her fellow volunteers on how many people had voted. "We were all expecting more people."
Leslie Hamilton, a Mitchellville resident, said she was able to go in and out without any problems or delays. She asked an election worker about the low turnout.

"She said it was because of early voting, or she's hoping that was the reason," Hamilton said.

-- Ovetta Wiggins

UPDATE 11:45 a.m.: Nancy Floreen, candidate for a County Council at-large seat, said that Leisure World is undoubtedly a prime target for candidates: "This is the center of the universe," she said. "This is a really important Democratic stronghold, and also a Republican stronghold."

Candidates target the retirement community during the weeks and months prior to Election Day as well -- attempting to win residents over with mailings, phone calls and events.

"They've been exposed to an unending wave of campaign events," said Floreen.

It might have been too much: Several Leisure World residents complained about the onslaught as they approached the polls, and avoided the long sidewalk lined with local politicians and campaign volunteers.

"I wish they didn't call so many times and spend all that money on literature," said Dora Pugliese, a Leisure World resident. "This year they were just terrible."

-- Caitlin Gibson

UPDATE 11:21 a.m.: Despite the vibrant scene outside the larger of two polling sites at Leisure World in Silver Spring -- with candidates and campaign volunteers lining the long sidewalk from the packed parking lot to the clubhouse doors -- election officials and candidates said turnout was still relatively light.

The precinct has 4,100 registered voters, said Stewart Lillard, Chief Election Judge at the site, and was anticipating 30 percent turnout. All of the voting machines had been in constant use since opening, he said.

"Turnout has been moderate," he said. "Most of these voters are retired and informed. They've shaken the hands of the candidates. They don't go to work, so they get up and vote."

The site regularly has the highest voter turnout in the county -- thus making it a prime "cattle call" spot for candidates.

Marc Elrich, Duchy Trachtenberg, Nancy Floreen and George Leventhal -- the four incumbent candidates for County Council at-large seats -- were all present Tuesday morning, greeting voters with smiles and handshakes.

Hans Riemer, a challenger in the at-large race, shook hands with Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, who asked him how the race was looking.

"I'm going to win this thing tonight and sit down tomorrow to think about how I can help you," Reimer told Brown, who is running for reelection on a ticket with Gov. Martin O'Malley.

"You can take half a day off before you get started," Brown said with a laugh.

-- Caitlin Gibson

UPDATE 11:14 a.m.: Brian Murphy, a long-shot candidate for the Republican nomination for governor in Maryland, mingled with a half-dozen supporters around 10:15 a.m. outside a polling station in Annapolis where turnout was very light.

"I love our chances," said Murphy, who cast his primary ballot shortly after 9 a.m. at the Chevy Chase Library, near his Montgomery County home, before setting out on a string of appearances elsewhere. "I'm really at peace. We ran a great campaign."

Former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), who is heavily favored to prevail Tuesday, took advantage of early voting in Maryland and cast his ballot last week. Ehrlich took his parents to a polling station in Arbutus Friday morning and posted a picture on Facebook.

Among those joining Murphy at the Annapolis polling station were James Pelura, a former chairman of the Maryland Republican Party. The polling station was located in a church just a few blocks form the subdivision where Ehrlich now lives.

-- John Wagner

UPDATE 10:52 a.m. Stan Fetter, manager of a small airport in southern Prince George's, cast his ballot at Accokeek Library around 10:15 a.m. The crowd was light.

"I got in and out of there so fast it made my head spin," he said.

But at nearby Eugene Burroughs Middle School, he said, long lines of voters were waiting to cast their ballots.

"This is the first time in my memory we have really had some choices," he said. "Some of these races are critical."

There are dozens to candidates to choose from for an array of offices, including county executive, county council, state's attorney and sheriff, as well as General Assembly seats.

"I have gotten more direct mail in the last few weeks than I have gotten in the past five years," Fetter said.

In the northern part of the county, voters were reporting light turnout at elementary-school polling places at University Park, Carroll Highlands, Cesar Chavez, Mount Rainier and Thomas Stone, as well as Hyattsville Middle School and Hyattsville city hall.

-- Miranda Spivack

UPDATE 10:01 a.m. Peter Jones, a Takoma Park resident and one of fewer than 65 voters to arrive at the Takoma Park Recreation Center on New Hampshire Avenue, said that his decisions in the at-large county council races were guided by the recommendations of local teachers.

"I followed the Apple Ballot," he said. "The teachers are people that you trust, and education is huge in Montgomery County."

Jones cast his ballot for incumbents Marc Elrich and George Leventhal as well as for newcomers Hans Riemer and Becky Wagner, with whom he was not very familiar, he said.

"I'm not sure I would have voted for them if the teachers hadn't," he said of Riemer and Wagner. "I admit I didn't know that much about them."

-- Caitlin Gibson

UPDATE 9:55 a.m.: Voter turnout appears to be low across Montgomery County, according to Board of Elections officials, who are anticipating a mere 30 percent turnout. Even in Takoma Park, where residents are known for their political activism, the Takoma Park Recreation Center only had seen about 60 voters by 9:15 a.m. Tuesday. The precinct has 1,800 registered voters, said Douglas Tursman, chief election judge.

"Usually turnout is very high at this precinct," he said. "It shows that there doesn't appear to be any contentious issues."

Del. Sheila Hixson (D-District 20) waited outside the rec center doors to greet voters and thank them for voting. She said the low turnout was distressing.

"There's just nobody here -- nobody anywhere!" She said. "If it's because of early voting, then that's wonderful, but I can't figure it out. In all the years I've been running I've never seen it this slow."

Hixson paused to turn toward a woman exiting the building, reaching out her hand to introduce herself.

"Thank you for voting!" Hixon said. "it's just so quiet!"

The woman nodded her agreement. "And on such a beautiful day!" she said.

-- Caitlin Gibson

UPDATE 8:49 a.m. The parking lot was nearly empty outside Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda just after 8 a.m. on Tuesday, and hardly a handful of voters had arrived to cast their votes.

"I wouldn't even call it a trickle, I'd call it a drip," said Amy Stromberg of the District, a campaign volunteer for Del. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-District 18). "It's rather disappointing. It's so important to vote, especially in an area like this where primaries make all the difference."

[Post editor Michael Bolden reports that things weren't much busier in Prince George's County, where the dozen poll workers easily outnumbered voters at the Glenn Dale Fire Station.]

She recalled that the last time she volunteered in a primary, it was during the latter part of the day, and far busier.

"It's still early," she said with a shrug.

Emily Guskin of Bethesda, one of the few voters to emerge from the school, said that she had been pleased to meet most of the at-large council candidates at the Bethesda Metro station.

"It was a tough choice," she said -- she'd felt swayed by her interactions with each. In the end, she voted for one newcomer, Hans Riemer, because she'd had a chance to meet him more than once at the Metro station and found him charismatic.

"He was very engaging and friendly," she said.

Guskin said she pays close attention to the endorsements of local teachers unions and other organizations, such as Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood, she said.

"I don't always follow them, but I think it's important to know who is supporting a candidate," she said.

-- Caitlin Gibson

UPDATE 8:11 a.m.: The handful of people waiting to vote this morning inside Bethesda Elementary School were outnumbered by the dozen campaigners sitting outside the entryway with tables, pamphlets and signs.

Cary Goldweber of Bethesda said he voted for Ilaya Hopkins in the District 1
race.

"My wife had participated in some zoning issues with the board," he said. Her impression was that a number of people "didn't really like Roger. This was less a vote for Hopkins and more a vote against Berliner."

Clark Bouwman of Chevy Chase voted for one of the challengers -- Jane de Winter -- in the at-large County Council race, as well as incumbents Marc Elrich, Duchy Trachtenberg and George L. Leventhal. He said he opted to vote for new blood over a fourth incumbent because "I have opposed [Nancy] Floreen's positions on certain local issues, and I thought de Winter has good ideas on transportation, community services, and expanding transit to serve the eastern part of the county."

Bouwman also voted for Berliner, he said, "a little reluctantly ... my impressions of him personally are that he's maybe a little flamboyant."

He agrees with Berliner's policies, he said, but is less than impressed with his dramatic style: "In 2006 he came out as if he was running against the war in Iraq. ... He wasn't running for Congress."

-- Caitlin Gibson

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  September 14, 2010; 1:14 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Elections  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Hopkins hits Berliner with misleading mailer in Montgomery
Next: Live blog: Maryland Primary Day 2010 night -- Committed volunteers, scant turnout

Comments

I voted this morning at Walt Whitman High School and have never seen such a small turnout. Although, obviously, I voted for myself for Montgomery County Executive, it was still nice to talk with Brian Frosh, Susan Lee, the husband of Jeanne Allen and also Ariana Kelly, the sister of Kyle Lierman, a friend of Hans Reimer, and a few others.

Posted by: DANIELVOVAK | September 14, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I voted a little after 10:30am at Woodmore Elementary School in Prince George's County. Very, very light turnout, but the poll workers said it has been steady so far this morning. Nice that it's easy to get in and out but we need everyone out there casting their vote in this election!

Posted by: lsaffell | September 14, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

I was at Whitman too. I saw lots of neighbors. Yes, turnout is light, but it is a primary.
Go Bill Frick!

Posted by: krickey7 | September 14, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Historically, mid term elections always draw few voters. I voted this morning at Laytonsville Elementary School around 10 a.m. and there were only a couple of voters there. My wife voted there little after noon, and she saw only few voters. We saw no candidates in this usually conservative precinct.

Posted by: VikingRider | September 14, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I had to wait 5-10 minutes at St. Luke on Colesville Road about 7 this morning.

That's not the easiest polling place to get into so it seemed like a good idea to go before Dale Drive backed up.

Posted by: RedBird27 | September 14, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

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