By Jonathan Phelps
---- — There are few political yard signs lining the streets of the North Shore, and candidate advertisements aren’t as overwhelming as in other statewide elections.
But the special primary election for the U.S. Senate is today from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Three men are vying for the Republican nomination and two for the Democratic nomination to fill the seat vacated in February when John Kerry stepped down to become U.S. secretary of state.
With a lack of political activities leading up to today’s primary, local town and city clerks are expecting a low voter turnout even though the U.S. Senate seats from Massachusetts have been in constant flux since the death of Edward Kennedy in 2010.
“I am praying for double digits,” Salem City Clerk Cheryl Lapointe said. “It has been very quiet; you can usually tell when there will be a busy election. There will be a lot of voter activity with people coming in to absentee vote or get an absentee ballot.”
Only about 40 voters took out absentee ballots in Salem for today’s primary. Typically, more than 2,000 are requested for a busy election, Lapointe said.
In Ipswich, Town Clerk Pamela Carakatsane said 96 absentee ballots were requested, which is a “small amount” compared to other elections.
“It doesn’t seem like there has been too much talk or signs in the area,” she said. “I haven’t really seen signs for anyone.”
In the Democratic primary, Congressman Ed Markey of Malden is running against Congressman Stephen Lynch of South Boston.
Markey, first elected to Congress in 1976, received the blessing of the Democratic establishment, picking up early endorsements from many prominent Democrats, including Kerry.
Lynch has highlighted his blue-collar roots and former job as an iron worker and union president. He held socially conservative views on abortion and gay marriage for years, some of which he said have evolved over time, generating some heat from liberal Democrats.
Three Republicans are seeking their party’s nomination: businessman Gabriel Gomez; Michael Sullivan, a former U.S. attorney and Plymouth district attorney; and state Rep. Daniel Winslow.
Gomez has been highlighting his bootstraps story, business experience and his service in the military.
Sullivan has been campaigning as a conservative, earning him attacks from Democrats for being out of step with Massachusetts.
Winslow, a former Wrentham District Court judge and former lawyer in Mitt Romney’s administration, has tried to present himself as an ideas-driven Republican who will look out for small business.
Secretary of State William Galvin said yesterday that his ‘‘best guess’’ is for about 550,000 voters across the state to take part in today’s Democratic primary, down from the nearly 670,000 who cast Democratic ballots in the 2009 special primary following the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Galvin notes that both Markey and Lynch have strong get-out-the-vote operations that could drive up turnout.
He predicts that about 200,000 people will cast votes in the Republican primary.
The winners of today’s primaries will advance to the June 25 special election.
Staff writer Douglas Moser contributed to this report. Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.