Voters flock to Frederick County polling places for Maryland primaries

·5 min read

Jul. 19—Frederick County residents flocked to polling places in Maryland's primaries on Tuesday, choosing candidates they want on the general election ballot in November.

There were races on the ballot for many offices at the county, state and federal level.

Jenny Ryan said she wanted to get Sheriff Chuck Jenkins out of office.

That wasn't an option on her ballot on Tuesday, so she voted for Karl Bickel, who was competing against Dan McDowell for the Democratic nomination for sheriff.

"We need somebody who believes that systemic racism is real," she said.

Ryan, a teacher at West Frederick Middle School, won the 2021-22 Frederick County Teacher of the Year. She said the Board of Education race was big for her.

"We have a slate of people running to make sure that we don't talk about LGBTQ in the schools. And that we don't talk about critical race theory and so I made sure not to vote for any of those people," Ryan said.

Ashli Regan, 29, said she voted Tuesday by following her progressive ideals. Regan has passionate feelings about access to health care in Maryland and abortion rights.

She read the profiles of every candidate, to pick who best represents what she wants, she said. She was particularly excited about Democrats Jessica Fitzwater, a county executive candidate, and Ashwani Jain, a gubernatorial candidate.

"I voted for Ashwani Jain for governor because I like the idea of, like, young, fresh ideas in the governor's office," she said.

Since the Board of Education race is nonpartisan, Regan went on the Frederick County Democrats' website to see which school board candidates had support there, she said.

"I don't want people on the Board of Ed who are against critical race theory because it's become such a buzzword, but it is very important that we learn the truth of our country's history, so that we don't repeat mistakes that we made," she said.

Even though turnout is usually lower in primaries than for general elections, Regan said, it's important to support candidates to help them get on the ballot in November.

"This is how you participate in democracy. This is how you get the candidates you want to see in office," she said. "You have to show up every time there is an election to vote for who you want there," she said.

To his recollection, Robert Andreoli, 71, hasn't missed an election since he started voting at 18.

At the polls on Tuesday morning, Andreoli said his votes were driven by high gas prices, inflation, and the economy in general.

He was particularly excited about certain candidates in the school board and sheriff races. He said he's a big fan of Jenkins, who is running for reelection.

He also was enthused about four school board candidates running as a slate with the slogan "Education, Not Indoctrination" — Nancy Allen, Olivia Angolia, Mark Joannides and Cindy Rose.

"They really believe that parents should have a say in our children's education. They're totally anti-CRT," he said. "All things that I agree with."

"Obviously, I'm a conservative and in Maryland, I'm outnumbered probably five to one, but I still feel it's important," he added.

By 9 a.m. Tuesday, about 30 people had come to Urbana High School to vote. The first voter, according to election judge Dennis Allen, showed up 15 to 20 minutes after the site had opened.

Allen, 70, signed up to be an election judge about six weeks ago when he realized that the county needed them.

He took the training sessions to prepare and volunteered at an early voting site in Middletown last week. The day he was there, about 230 people from across the county showed up to vote, Allen said.

"There's a lot of folks here who have experience and we got all kinds of printed matter ... so it's a pretty smooth process," he said.

People supporting a variety of campaigns, including Republican county executive candidate Mike Hough and Republican congressional candidate Neil Parrott, lined the sidewalk leading into the election site. They chatted with each other and handed out campaign literature to people going in to vote.

David FitzGerald voted with his 5-year-old son, Alexander, who was excited to receive a mint and a sticker after they finished, FitzGerald said.

"[It's] hard to complain about the way things are going if you refuse to participate," FitzGerald said.

He and his wife are Republicans, which can be frustrating in a majority Democratic state. But he has faith in the system and described himself as an "optimist."

His wife, who recently became a citizen, did a lot of research about the candidates that FitzGerald used as guidance. When he asked his son who to vote for, Alexander's answers were: "Nobody. [His] second answer was mama. Then he said, 'You know what? Me. Vote for me,'" FitzGerald said.

He said he decided to vote for moderate Republican candidates because they are more likely to get elected. He wants candidates who are willing to have conversations about important issues.

Valerie Vickers said inflation and responding to crime are important to her. The country is being destroyed by both parties, she said.

"We need people who will stop fooling around and be leaders, which we don't have, especially in our federal government," Vickers said.

Sue Morningstar, 82, said she wants to get Republicans into office. The current state of the government is "sickening and scary" and makes her worry about her family, she said.

She wants Donald Trump back as president with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as vice president. Morningstar voted for Dan Cox for the Republican nomination for governor.

She is also worried about inflation making it hard to feed a family. The current president is doing a "lousy job," she said.

"He doesn't know what's going on. He has a little paper every place he goes to tell him what to do next," Morningstar said.

Follow Clara Niel on Twitter: @clarasniel