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Voters In Massachusetts Electing New U.S. Senator

A voting machine

Massachusetts voters are electing a new U.S. Senator today.  It appears the contest between Democratic Congressman Edward Markey and Republican newcomer Gabriel Gomez will be decided by a small percentage of the state’s eligible voters.

In the air conditioned gymnasium of the Springfield Boys and Girls club on Carew Street, longtime election warden for Ward 2 Precinct 2B Joseph Campbell described the voter turnout as “light.” After a small surge of voters came   through the doors during the noon hour, Campbell predicted turnout might climb to 20 percent by the time the polling place closes at 8 tonight.

The voter turnout appeared to verify pre-election poll data that indicated a high degree of voter apathy about the Markey-Gomez Senate race.

A sampling of voters at a handful of polling places in Springfield’s heavily Democratic Ward 2 found Markey’s campaign messages resonating with most people.

Springfield Election Commissioner Gladys Oyola said today’s special Senate election has been overshadowed in Springfield by next month’s casino referendum.

At roughly a dozen polling locations in Springfield today, MGM Resorts employees and volunteers were campaigning for support for the company’s casino project at the July 16th citywide referendum.  They passed out pro-casino brochures, buttons,  and signs.

Credit WAMC
Supporters of MGM Resorts Springfield casino project outside the Springfield Boy's and Girl's Club during the special Senate election. The casino referendum is in three weeks.

Michael Mathis , Vice President of Global Gaming Development for MGM, said this was one part of a campaign to get a high turnout and an overwhelming  affirmative vote for the project.

Springfield voters must endorse MGM’s casino development agreement negotiated with city officials before the company can apply to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for the lone casino license available in western Massachusetts.

Heather Dwyer, who grew up in Massachusetts, and is convention sales manager for The Mirage in Las Vegas, tried to sway a voter who said he was undecided.

The anti-casino group, Citizens Against Casino Gaming, did not have a presence at the polls. The group is  holding a forum Wednesday night that will feature several prominent anti-casino speakers, including former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.