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Whistle stop

Riderwood residents host political candidates, events

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October 14th, 2014
Lietuenant Governor Anthony Brown shaking hands with a resident
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This month, when people across the country head to the polls to cast their votes for local and national candidates, the political scene at Riderwood will be buzzing. The Erickson Living community in Silver Spring, Md., is home to 2,600 active retirees, many of whom are highly engaged in local and national politics.

Riderwood is a polling place, making it especially convenient for residents to make their voices heard through their ballots on Election Day. And Riderwood residents go to the polls as informed and educated citizens. The community has both Democratic and Republican clubs, so whatever their political views, it’s easy for residents to stay up to date on political issues by attending candidate forums, film showings, and other special events hosted on campus by the political party clubs. 

Long-time Democrat takes leadership role

Resident Millie Bluestein resides as president of Riderwood’s Democratic Club. Club members elected her to the position when some spots on the steering committee opened up earlier this year. She says she has always been interested in local and national politics and was a poll worker in Washington, D.C., for 15 years. 

“I think every citizen ought to be informed and make informed decisions about things like how money is spent in this country,” Millie says. “So when my name was suggested as possible member of the democratic steering committee [at Riderwood], I thought ‘Why not? Why should I not make a contribution? I’ll figure out what needs to be done and then do it.’”

Millie has jumped feet first into her role as president of the Democratic Club, which has been busy all year gearing up for this election cycle. The steering committee meets once a month to plan programs and events, which take place throughout the year. Millie estimates that roughly half of Riderwood residents align themselves with the Democratic Party, and she says 300 people are registered members of the community’s Democratic Club. Events are open to all residents as well as to staff members.

“In my view, being involved in politics informs me, educates me, and helps me make decisions,” Millie says.

Riderwood’s Democratic Club has hosted high-profile politicians, including Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, the Democratic candidate for Maryland governor, as well as Attorney General Doug Gansler, and Maryland House of Delegates Member Heather Mizeur, who both competed against Brown in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in June. 

“We’ve been very busy this year with the primaries and the elections in November, and the national election in two years,” Millie says.

Popular campaign stop

Political candidates are typically quite keen to schedule a campaign stop at Riderwood. They know the community is home to thousands of active, educated, and engaged older adults who are likely to vote.

“Anthony Brown said that as soon as he was nominated, the first place he came to speak was Riderwood,” Millie says. “We have an audience of potentially 1,200 people who wanted to hear what he had to say.”

The Riderwood Democratic Club also provides information about voter registration. Millie says the club is able to help residents navigate the logistics of registering to vote after they’ve moved to a new home, particularly people who have moved from out of state. She says people who have a driver’s license can register to vote fairly easily, and people who move to Riderwood without a current driver’s license can fill out applications for voter registration.

“We want to bring programs to educate people one way or the other, and everybody is welcome at our meetings,” Millie says. “I would say the people who live at Riderwood are very politically aware.”

More than politics

In addition to hosting visits with political candidates, the club also organizes special events. In January, the club coordinated a presentation by

“That was outstanding; we had the biggest crowd we’ve had at Riderwood and it wasn’t even a political event,” Millie says. So many people know Nancy, so they wanted to hear her talk. She had wonderful slides and maps and descriptions of genealogical history.”

Republicans carve out a niche

Even though there are no Republican elected officials representing Riderwood, Republican residents also have a forum to connect with other people who share their political views. 

Bill Boyer is the president of Riderwood’s Republican Club. He says he and his wife Dianne have always been interested in politics, but they previously limited their involvement to donating money to candidates and causes they care about. Since retiring and moving to Riderwood, the Boyers decided to become more active in politics by taking leadership roles in the Republican Club.

Recently, the Republican Club has been organizing DVD showings of speeches by Ronald Reagan and other Republican Party leaders. Like the Democratic Club, the Republican Club also periodically hosts speakers and candidates for political office. 

“We ask questions about what they think about issues like immigration and the national debt, and then we give them a chance to comment,” Bill says.

Riderwood has reached out to Larry Hogan, the GOP nominee for governor, to invite him to make a campaign stop at the campus before Election Day.

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