Voters trickled to the polls today to take the first step in choosing a Senate successor to Secretary of State John F. Kerry, as two Democrats and three Republicans vie to win their respective party primary elections.
US Representative Stephen F. Lynch and US Representative Edward J. Markey last week took the Democratic contest onto negative turf, dueling over each other’s national security votes and exchanging insults about who was being more truthful with voters.
On the Republican side of the ballot, private equity investor Gabriel E. Gomez, former US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan, and state Representative Daniel B. Winslow have been squabbling in an attempt to claim the relatively sparse number of votes needed to win a Republican primary in Massachusetts.
In both parties, concerns about voter turnout have forced candidates to reconsider strategies. The Boston Marathon bombings have drawn attention away from the past few weeks of a brief campaign that already had difficulty sparking the public’s interest after former Senator Scott Brown, among others, had passed on the race.
By 3 p.m., a total of 37,401 people had voted in Boston, according to city figures. That was a turnout rate of 9.6 percent, the city said. Low turnout was also reported in various surrounding communities.
Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. For information on where to vote, visit Secretary of State William F. Galvin’s website.
At Cathedral High School on Washington Street, in Boston’s South End, voters trickled out of the gymnasium just before 9 a.m. Inside the large gym, poll workers sitting at rows of tables outnumbered voters.
Mark Pasnik, 42, an architect and professor, said he voted for Markey because he said they shared progressive values.
Jane Cooper Brayton, 77, an artist, also said she voted for Markey, citing his experience in Washington and because he “supports women’s health care.”
Brayton, who is an unenrolled voter, cited Lynch’s vote against President Obama’s health care overhaul and his previous position as antiabortion lawmaker as reasons she did not support him.
She also lamented the low number of voters casting ballots.
“I think everybody is so exhausted,” she said.
At the Curley Recreational Center in South Boston, Brance Gillihan, a 40-year-old carpenter, said he voted for Sullivan because of his tough stand on the national debt and “the character of the candidate. After reading about everyone’s stances, I liked him best.”
At Winchester’s Muraco and Lynch elementary schools, poll workers said that turnout was more reminiscent of recent town election when many of the candidates ran unopposed.
In the town’s Precinct 1, only 57 of the 1,800 registered voters had cast a ballot by 8:30 a.m.. Of those 57 votes, 14 were for absentee ballots.
Wayne Paskerian, 73, who voted at Lynch Elementary School with his wife, said they have always voted and weren’t going to miss this election.
Paskerian participated in the Democratic primary. He said it was a difficult decision choosing between Markey and Lynch.
“It came down to Markey,” Paskerian said. “Because of experience.”
At Chinatown’s Metropolitan building, just 183 voters from Ward 3, Precinct 8, had voted by 10:33 a.m., according to warden Helen Wong.
Tremont Street resident Leonard “Lenny” Grover said he voted for Markey and had also been a campaign volunteer. His allegiance to Markey even led to him to change his voter enrollment, he said.
“I was an independent, but I registered recently as a Democrat,” said Grover, 31. “He’s more progressive across the board, but the issues that are most important to me are the civil liberties issues,” Grover said of Markey and his concerns that government might seek to curtail personal liberty in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Downtown resident Rachel Plattus, 25, said she was an unenrolled voter but took part in the Democratic primary to support Markey.
“I think it’s been clear ... that particularly around issues of climate that Ed Markey has stood up again and again for the things that I and the people I work with believe in,” she said. “So as an activist, it’s a no-brainer.”
Turnout was light at the Robert A. DeLeo Senior Center in Winthrop at about 9:45 a.m. – but not any lighter than on most other primary election mornings, according to volunteer poll workers checking in a smattering of voters.
We’ve had about 100 voters so far,” said Bob Wynne, adding that the turnout wasn’t any lighter than on most primary Tuesdays.
Ron Moses, who was also checking in voters, noted the mere handful of voters in the Center’s activities room and said it did not compare with turnout during the last fall’s presidential election, when he was also checking in voters. “We had a line going out the door,” he said.
In Boston, voters in the First Suffolk District will be choosing a candidate in a Democratic primary for the Senate seat being vacated by Jack Hart. State Representative Nick Collins, state Representative Linda Dorcena Forry, and political newcomer Maureen Dahill are vying for the seat. A little-known Republican is also running unopposed in his primary.
The district covers Dorchester, Mattapan, South Boston, and a portion of Hyde Park but has historically been dominated by South Boston politicians. During the campaign, the state Senate candidates have focused attention on Dorchester, home to much of the city’s burgeoning black, Latino, and immigrant power structure.
By 8:15 on the bright sunny morning, 120 people had voted at Florian Hall on Hallet Street. Supporters handed out cards for Lynch, Collins, Dahill, and Forry.
Dahill was on hand to talk with voters as they trickled in.
“I’m here showing a friendly face and thanking people for voting,” she said. “I feel good, I feel eerily confident. I worked hard and now it’s up to the voters.”
Also in Boston today, campaign workers for the two dozen mayoral candidates are expected to be at the polling places across the city trying to collect the signatures needs to put them on the ballot. Collectively, the field of two dozen candidates will need 72,000 different signatures, the Globe reports today.
At City Hall as of 9 a.m., the number number of people who showed up at the Election Department for papers to run for mayor and City Council seemed to rival the number of voters (73).
Signs for several of the two dozen mayoral candidates popped up at the polls, particularly for state Representative Martin Walsh and City Councilor Rob Consalvo.
City Councilor John Connolly, also a mayoral hopeful, said today at Condon Elementary School in South Boston that he was spreading his message about transforming public schools and building safe neighborhoods.
“The people that vote today will definitely vote in September,” Connolly said. “So I’m going to be out here every minute.”
In the recent presidential election, people jammed the sidewalk and waited in line for hours to cast their votes at the polling station at Elihu Greenwood Elementary School in Hyde Park. But in the special election primary today, the sidewalk was empty by midmorning. There was plenty of parking. And the only two candidates standing out front near a smattering a campaign signs were Consalvo and Hyde Park resident Mimi Turchinetz, who wants Consalvo’s council seat.
Residents who turned out midmorning were older and devoted to the voting process. They acknowledge that the political races have so far been a sleeper, generating very little enthusiasm. But they said they had duty to turn out and vote.
“I don’t care what kind of day it is, it’s voting day. You vote,” said 72-year-old Julia Gannon of Hyde Park.
George Murray, a 68-year-old Hyde Park resident, said voting was easy, with little fuss and no lines. “I think people have other stuff on their minds other than this,’’ he said.
Jocelyn Frederique, a 56-year-old Hyde Park resident, said he was doing his civic duty by voting, even though he was not impressed with the candidates.
“I’m not excited about them, but I voted anyway,” said Frederique, who said he is helping with the Consalvo campaign.
“I’ve never missed an election in my life,’’ said one gray-haired woman who would only identify herself as Agnes from Hyde Park. “Every primary is a sleeper. [People] are just too lazy to vote.”Michael Rezendes of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Correspondents Johanna Kaiser, Patrick D. Rosso, Jeremy Fox and Deirdre Fernandes contributed to this report. Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at James.OSullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports. Andrew Ryan can be reached at email@example.com Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan.