By Scott Shurtleff
The clear blue sky and sunny weather didn't stop voters from avoiding the booths Tuesday morning. Campaign workers and polling place volunteers agree that early turn-out is disappointing and lower than expected.
Tuesday's primaries feature state- and district-wide races for legislative offices including register of deeds, district attorney, state Senate, and secretary of state. The featured race, at least on the Democratic side, is the contest among a crowded roster of candidates to win the party's nomination for U.S. House of Representatives' 3rd District.
Ten candidates are vying for the 3rd District seat that will be vacated by retiring Niki Tsongas. All of the city's 16 polling locations saw volunteers holding signs and handing out pins and pamphlets to supporters and fence-sitters. "I don't even look at the campaign workers or their signs when I come to vote," said one voter who did not want to be identified. "I already know who I'm going to vote for before I arrive."
The candidates criss-crossed the area to greet volunteers and hopefully sway some last-minute undecided residents. "I would say that at about 30 percent of the voters are still undecided by the time they arrive at the polls," said state Rep. Juana Matias, one of 3rd District candidates. "So I make sure I have the opportunity to meet as many people as I can outside.
In the final poll in the race, conducted by UMass Lowell and the Boston Globe, 29 percent of voter said they had not made up their mind.
One volunteer, Judy Hubert, was outside of Lowell High School with three different signs attached to a single wooden handle. "I like everybody," she said. "I need to get a longer pole."
Yvie Robinson and Comfort Chieh, volunteers for 3rd District candidate Beej Das, touted his resume. "He is a small business owner and a man of the people," they said. "He is a constitutional lawyer and actually financed his own campaign."
Across town at Reilly Elementary School, traditionally one of the city's busiest, 3rd District candidate Lori Trahan stopped in to thank her volunteers and mingle with supporters. "I voted for Lori (Trahan) partly because she is a local girl," said Erin Gendron, who cast her ballot on her way to work as a social worker. "Plus she is pro-union," Gendron said of Trahan. "and I am a member of the SEIU."
At Daley School in Lowell, a gauntlet of smiling volunteers lined the walkway on both sides. Signs for three state Senate candidates -- Rodney Elliott, Ed Kennedy and John Drinkwater -- butted up against one another. Volunteers for 3rd District candidates Bopha Malone and Dan Koh shared a sidewalk.
Lisa Arnold wore a number of lapel pins and stickers for candidates. She is volunteering for 3rd District candidate Alexandra Chandler. "I support Chandler because of her impressive resume," Arnold said. "She is a Russian-speaking lawyer, something we could really use in congress, and spent 13 years in U.S. naval intelligence. I connected with her almost immediately."
One voter said of Secretary of State challenger Josh Zakim, "I felt he was able to get his his message across clearer and sooner."
Matt Donahue, a former city councilor, and his spouse, Lisa Gwiazda, strongly support Bill Martin for state Senate. "He has the best resume and the most experience."