Boston – Turnout was reported to be heavy Tuesday as Massachusetts voters trudged through a light snow to choose their next U.S. senator.
Late internal polling by the campaigns indicated that the race between Democratic state Attorney General Martha Coakley and Republican state Sen. Scott Brown was too close to call.
A Suffolk University poll of three key towns Saturday and Sunday — Fitchburg, Gardner and Peabody — gave Brown a comfortable lead in each.
Brown, 50, is trying to win the seat that Sen. Edward Kennedy held for 47 years before his death last August. No Republican has won the seat since Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. in 1946.
Coakley has stumbled, however, and Brown has surged. Even supporters complain that Coakley’s campaign has been lackluster.
“She’s trying too hard not to make mistakes,” Newton labor arbiter Tammy Brynie said.
Brown, on the other hand, is winning over voters who are annoyed with President Barack Obama, the Democrats’ health care plan and the status quo in general.
“Brown stands for smaller government. Look at history; bigger government just doesn’t work,” said Shawn Burke, a Charlestown college student.
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin told WBZ, a Boston television station, that he expected 40 percent of the state’s voters to turn out Tuesday, about double the number that voted in last month’s primaries.
Others, though, think that could go higher. “We think there’ll be a high turnout,” said Cheryl Crawford, the policy director at MassVOTE, a voter education group.
She said the nonstop attention this campaign had received should motivate voters. Obama himself has been appearing in a Coakley ad, and news reports have painted the race as crucial to the future of the Democrats’ health care plan.
Democrats now control 60 Senate votes, the exact number needed to cut off debate. A Brown victory would complicate matters, and analysts said it very well could derail the effort.
The weather, which called for lighter snow in the eastern half of the state, including the Boston area, and somewhat heavier snow elsewhere, wasn’t expected to be a major factor.
“People will come out regardless,” Crawford said.
Polls were to close at 8 p.m.