As he stood in a line inside the Upper Marlboro Community Center, Curly William recalled his time in the Army in the 1960s, when he learned discipline and how to adapt to another climate — and his civic duty to vote.
The Forestville man was among dozens of Prince George’s County residents Thursday that came out for the first day of early voting in Maryland’s general election. Political observers nationwide are focused on the state’s high-profile gubernatorial race between Republican incumbent Larry Hogan and Democratic challenger Ben Jealous.
If Hogan wins, he would become the first Republican governor to be re-elected in 64 years, while a Jealous victory would make him Maryland’s first Black governor.
“It was a toss-up, but I went with Ben Jealous,” said William, who turned 76 on Thursday. “Voting makes a difference. That’s the only way you can get people out of office who are not right.”
Jealous plans to visit the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Complex in Landover on Friday, the county’s largest polling site.
Besides the governor’s race, local races are also taking place in Prince George’s.
Two years ago, voters chose to expand the county council from nine members to 11 with two at-large seats. This year, three people are running for the two newest seats: current county Councilman Mel Franklin (D-District 9); Calvin Hawkins, a Democrat and former senior adviser to County Executive Rushern L. Baker III; and Felicia Folarin, an insurance agent and registered Republican.
County Clerk of the Court Sydney Harrison, who is running to replace Franklin in District 9, chatted with voters Thursday outside Upper Marlboro Community Center. Harrison won the Democratic primary by 55 votes over Tamara Davis Brown, a telecommunications attorney now running as a write-in campaign in the general election.
“I respect the process,” Harrison said. “I look forward to serving with all the individuals in the race. We had eight, great candidates in that District 9 race. When we all come together, District 9 will be better served.”
Voters will have 11 questions to review that include five charter referendums to borrow nearly $400 million on construction and renovation projects for public works and transportation, library system, public safety, community college and county buildings.
Erica Godfrey of Upper Marlboro, a St. Louis native who moved to the county seven years ago, voted Democrat and for the bond questions on her ballot, but said she still doesn’t understand how public money is used toward private education.
Earlier this year, the Maryland General Assembly approved nearly $8 million toward the BOOST (Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today) program for low-income children to attend private and religious schools. Hogan introduced the program and money for it has increased the past three years.
“I’m not used to [seeing] million-dollar homes in P.G. County, [yet] you have to pay for private education,” Godfrey said. “I never seen anything like that.”
Early voting continues daily through Nov. 1 and polls open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For a list of polling locations, go to princegeorgescountymd.gov.