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5 things to know about the Massachusetts primary

September 7, 2014

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts voters are heading to the polls on primary day to narrow down the Democratic and Republican candidates for a slew of political offices. Here are five things to keep an eye on during Tuesday’s balloting:

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DEVAL DEPARTING

The end of the Deval Patrick era on Beacon Hill is drawing ever closer, and one big sign is the Democratic primary ballot — the first not to include his name since he was elected in 2006. That all three Democratic candidates — Attorney General Martha Coakley, state Treasurer Steve Grossman and Donald Berwick — said they asked for Patrick’s support shows what a dominant figure he has become for Massachusetts Democrats. Another reminder of Patrick’s imminent departure is that each of the candidates found ways to disagree with Patrick during recent debates. The two GOP candidates — Charlie Baker and Mark Fisher — are hoping to reclaim the office for Republicans after an eight-year drought. Patrick has so far declined to endorse any candidate in the race to succeed him.

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AG ANGST

One of the tightest races on the ballot is the Democratic contest to replace Coakley as attorney general. Former state senator Warren Tolman is facing off against Maura Healey, who spent the past seven years working in the attorney general’s office under Coakley. The race has given some die-hard Democrats a severe case of political heartburn as they try to choose between Tolman, a Democratic stalwart who ran two unsuccessful campaigns for statewide office — lieutenant governor in 1998 and governor in 2002 — or Healey, who helped lead an effort to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented legally married gay couples in Massachusetts from obtaining certain federal benefits. Whoever wins will face Republican John Miller in November.

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TIERNEY TARGET

The most closely watched congressional primary on Tuesday is in the state’s 6th Congressional District, where Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. John Tierney is trying to fend off four challengers. Tierney says he’s confident of victory but his campaign recently launched an ad targeting Seth Moulton, a businessman and Iraq War veteran hoping to unseat him. Although he’s a political newcomer, Moulton has been able to raise enough money to launch television ads arguing that it’s time for a change after 18 years of Tierney. Immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco and two other Democrats— John Gutta and John Patrick Devine — are also on the ballot. Whoever wins will face former Republican state Sen. Richard Tisei in November.

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DOWNTICKET DOLDRUMS

Candidates for some of the other statewide seats have been struggling to capture the attention of voters. Three Democrats are vying to win their party’s nomination to fill the seat being vacated by state Treasurer Steve Grossman — former Brookline selectwoman Deborah Goldberg, state Rep. Thomas Conroy of Wayland, and state Sen. Barry Finegold of Andover. Polls show voters are still unfamiliar with the candidates. The winner will face Republican candidate Michael James Heffernan of Wellesley. There are also three Democrats competing for their party’s nomination for lieutenant governor — Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung, Stephen Kerrigan, who’s a former aide to the late U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, and Mike Lake, head of the nonprofit organization Leading Cities. Former Shrewsbury state Rep. Karyn Polito is the only Republican running for lieutenant governor.

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PARTY POOPERS

While Tuesday’s primaries are designed to narrow the field of candidates in any given contest to one Democrat and one Republican, the majority of Massachusetts voters aren’t a member of either party. According to the most recent numbers, more than 53 percent have registered as independent. A little more than 35 percent are registered as Democrats while fewer than 11 percent are Republicans. There are more than 4.2 million registered voters in the state. On Tuesday, those voters not enrolled in either party can vote in either the Republican or Democratic primaries. The state’s GOP hotspot is Barnstable County, where Republicans make up nearly 16 percent of registered voters. The highest concentration of Democratic voters is in Suffolk County, which includes Boston, where 53 percent of voters are Democrats.

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