BOSTON (AP) - The candidates hoping to become Massachusetts' newest member of Congress are crisscrossing the 5th District north and west of Boston trying to win over undecided voters ahead of Tuesday's primary.
Voters will winnow the field of seven Democrats and three Republicans down to one candidate for each party in the state's latest special election, this one to fill the House seat left vacant by the election of Edward Markey to the U.S. Senate this summer. Markey represented the district for 37 years.
Massachusetts Secretary William Galvin, the state's top election official, is predicting a strong voter turnout.
Galvin said 100,000 to 120,000 Democratic voters and up to 20,000 Republican voters could trek to the polls Tuesday. He said just 62,000 Democrats from the district voted in the Senate primary this year pitting Markey against Rep. Stephen Lynch.
Galvin said he based his prediction on a number of factors, including high level of interest in the contest, the number of absentee ballots taken out, the amount of money spent on advertising and the relatively small geographic size of the district.
"You have multiple candidates working a more concentrated area," Galvin said Monday. "I think that's going to stimulate a bigger turnout."
Those candidates include five on the Democratic side who currently hold elected office: Belmont state Sen. William Brownsberger, Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, Ashland state Sen. Karen Spilka, Melrose state Sen. Katherine Clark and Medford state Rep. Carl Sciortino.
Two other Democrats, former Lexington School Committee member Martin Long and Stoneham resident Paul John Maisano, are also on the ballot.
The three Republicans in the race are Boston attorney Frank Addivinola, Holliston resident Michael Stopa and Framingham veteran Tom Tierney.
The latest in a string of elections and special elections in Massachusetts in recent years, the primary is playing out as Americans' frustration with Congress is soaring over the ongoing stalemate over the funding of government services and the threat of a default.
Democrats in the special election have blamed the impasse on House Republicans who had used the shutdown to try to force a delay or to make changes to President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law.
Republicans eyeing Markey's former seat say the blame falls primarily on lawmakers and members of the Obama administration who support the new health law.
Galvin said the focus on Congress, although largely negative, could still have the effect of drumming up interest in the special primary election.
Heading into final weeks of the campaign, Koutoujian held a fundraising edge, with more than $690,000 left in cash in his account at the end of September. That's far ahead of his next closest competitor, Clark, who had about $393,000 in her account, including $250,000 of her own money.
Whoever wins the Democratic primary will be in a strong position heading into the Dec. 10 special general election against the Republican candidate.
The district is one of the most Democratic in the state. Voters there supported Democrat Martha Coakley over Republican Scott Brown in the special 2010 U.S. Senate election that Brown won.
Massachusetts currently has an all-Democratic congressional delegation.