- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 19, 2010

BOSTON (AP) — Republicans looked for an upset and Democrats fought to hang onto a Senate seat long in their column Tuesday as voters turned out in strong numbers despite bad weather to pick a successor for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.

The GOP voiced increasing confidence that Scott Brown, previously a relatively obscure state lawmaker, could win a razor-thin race that Democrat Martha Coakley seemed certain to win a few weeks ago.

Election officials in Boston said the turnout was more than twice the participation rate in the December party primaries. And a line of cars, at one point, was stretched for nearly a half-mile from a gymnasium at North Andover High School, the polling place for a community of about 30,000 about a half-hour north of Boston. Some drivers turned around in exasperation.

Speaking to reporters after she voted, Coakley voiced confidence she would win, saying “we’ve been working every day.”

Coakley struggles against enthusiasm for Brown
Bookie pays off early, predicts Brown win

“Every game has its own dynamics,” she said. “We’ll know tonight what the results are.”

Brown, who drove his pickup truck to a polling place to vote, played down the import of becoming the 41st Republican vote to uphold a filibuster, telling reporters, “It would make everybody the 41st senator, and it would bring fairness and discussion back to the equation.” He that should he win, he hoped Democrats controlling the state’s election apparatus “would do the right thing and certify me as quickly as possible.”

But he also dismissed polls showing a swell of support for him. “I’ve never been a big poll person,” Brown said. “I’m up in some, I’m down in some. And we’ll see what happens, 8:01 (p.m.).”

Voters faced backups at some polling stations, and Secretary of State William Galvin says he expected from 1.6 million to 2.2 million people to vote — a spread of between 40 percent and 55 percent of registered voters.

A light snow started falling steadily shortly after the polls opened north of Boston, covering roads and sidewalks with a slippery coating. Some voters in Haverhill, about 35 miles north of Boston, grumbled as they navigated snow banks and thick slush to get to the polls. National Weather Service meteorologist Charlie Foley called it “kind of an annoyance.”

Some voters, like 38-year-old computer programmer Sara Perry, said keeping the filibuster-proof majority in Congress was more appealing to her than Coakley herself. “I’m not a big fan of hers, but I really want to keep that balance,” she said.

Elsewhere, supporters who huddled under umbrellas with their Brown campaign signs said they were optimistic that his message — and his potential importance in the health care debate — is resonating with voters.

“People are tired of all of the back-room deals on health care and everything else. Nobody likes the secrecy, and this is a way to put the kibosh on that,” said John Pepper, a Republican from Cheshire, Conn., who took a day off from work to campaign for Brown in western Massachusetts.

In Washington, senior White House adviser David Axelrod said the White House expects Coakley to win. Axelrod said Obama, who campaigned with Coakley Sunday in Boston and cut a last-minute ad, did everything he could to help.

“I think the White House did everything we were asked to do,” Axelrod told reporters. “Had we been asked earlier, we would have responded earlier. But we responded in a timely fashion when we were asked.”

The swift rise of Brown has spooked Democrats who had considered the seat one of their most reliable. Kennedy, who died in August, held the post for 47 years. The last time Massachusetts elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate was 1972.

A Suffolk University survey taken Saturday and Sunday showed Brown with double-digit leads in three communities the poll identified as bellwethers: Gardner, Fitchburg and Peabody. But internal statewide polls for both sides showed a dead heat.

A third candidate, Joseph L. Kennedy, a Libertarian running as an independent, said he’s been bombarded with e-mails from Brown supporters urging him to drop out and endorse the Republican. Kennedy, who was polling in the single digits and is no relation to the late senator, said he’s staying in.

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