Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

May 2, 2013

Many sit out special Senate primary

Timing of vote keeps turnout low

By Bill Kirk

---- — By 11 a.m. Tuesday, voters in the state’s special U.S. Senate primary election had already surpassed the numbers that came out in total for March’s town election.

Andover voters ultimately mirrored results statewide, selecting Democratic candidate Edward Markey, with a 68 percent vote, and Republican candidate Gabriel Gomez, with 50.5 percent of the vote.

Markey and Gomez will now advance to the general election on June 25 in a bid to replace former Sen. John Kerry who was appointed as secretary of state by President Barack Obama.

In Andover, Markey topped challenger Congressmen Stephen Lynch, with 31.5 percent, for his party’s nod. On the Republican side, businessman Gomez bested state Rep. Dan Winslow (R-Norfolk), who finished second with 34 percent of the GOP vote, and former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, who was third with less than 15 percent of the vote.

Overall, 3,609 voters — 15.8 percent of the total registered in town — cast ballots, with about 63 percent voting in the Democratic primary and the remaining 37 percent marking the Republican ballot.

Though the turnout more than tripled that of the town’s March election, “we wish for more,” Town Clerk Larry Murphy said.

“It’s not what I’d call a good turnout,” he said. “But there are more contested races” than the town elections, when less than 5 percent turned out for the whole day.

Statewide, Secretary of State William Galvin predicted about 750,000 of the roughly 4 million eligible voters would cast their ballots in the Democratic and Republican primaries for the open U.S. Senate seat.

“Obviously the tragic events of April 15 serve to cause people to think about other things other than politics,” Galvin said, noting the bombings had affected media coverage and caused a debate to be canceled.

Non-voting voters agreed.

Barbara Pathak, 54, of Windemere Drive, sat in Starbucks on Main Street Tuesday reading the New York Times while taking a break from CNN coverage of the marathon bombing.

“I’ve been consumed with the story,” she said.

She said she’s been watching TV coverage of the bombing and reading stories about the two young men involved in an attempt to understand their motivations. As a result, she hasn’t had any time to catch up on reading about the election.

“I believe in voting,” she said. “It’s a privilege I love to exercise. But I like to be an edified, educated voter, and I didn’t read enough about the candidates to vote.”

Susan Woodman, 54, an employee of a tutoring service on Main Street, said she wasn’t voting in the election because she is “disillusioned with the state of politics.”

“I’ve kind of lost hope in the system,” she said. “I’m an Obama supporter, but they aren’t letting him get anything done.”

After years of stability among the state’s two U.S. senators, Massachusetts is now heading into its second special election for the office in three years, and Galvin said voters appear less enthusiastic than in 2009.

State Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, was among the small numbers who turned out to cast his ballot at Andover High School.

“It’s been a difficult campaign,” he said. “We had a major snowstorm in February, and what happened in Boston, along with voter fatigue, it’s just not what people are talking about at the water cooler.”

Some voters were energized to get out and cast their ballots, hoping their candidates would prevail both in the primary and final elections.

“I’m a hard-core conservative,” said Dan Shine, 69, of Grenada Way. “I voted for Mike Sullivan. He was the most attractive of the candidates.”

He said he ultimately hoped that Markey loses in the final election.

“I couldn’t vote against Markey,” he said, because he voted in the Republican primary. “But,” he said, “Republicans have no chance” in the final election. “We’re in Massachusetts.”

His wife, Rosanne, said she also voted for Sullivan and was equally grim about Republicans’ chances.

“The big cities always carry the Democrats,” she said. “The Democratic machines control the cities.”

Christina Curtin-Orsmond, 43, of Lowell Street, said she voted for Markey because he could beat the Republicans and because “he will represent us very well.”

A regular voter, Curtin-Orsmond said even she was surprised by the special election.

“It snuck up so fast,” she said, noting that she went on February vacation break and when she returned, she realized the election was being held. She said up to that point, she hadn’t seen much advertising on TV or elsewhere by the candidates.

“I don’t know if they were saving money for the final,” she said.

Eighty-six municipalities “piggybacked” local municipal elections with the special U.S. Senate primary. Andover, however, had to hold a separate election at a cost of about $20,000, Murphy said.

Staff Writer Dustin Luca contributed to this story.