Massachusetts voters back Obama, to decide US Senator
Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren, center, casts her ballot as she and her husband , Bruce Mann, right, visited the polls near their Cambridge, Mass. home on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Warren is running against Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who was elected in a special election in 2010 after the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA). (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., gets into his truck after voting in Wrentham, Mass., on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Brown is facing Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren for the U.S. Senate. (AP Photo/Gretchen Ertl)
BOSTON — Polling places across the state were busy Tuesday as voters decided an expensive and hotly contested U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren and threw their support behind Barack Obama for a second term in the White House.
Obama, as expected, carried the state’s 11 electoral votes in the presidential race, handing Mitt Romney a defeat in his home state, where he served as governor for one term from 2003 through 2007.
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Massachusetts voters also were picking among U.S. House candidates and deciding the fate of ballot questions that could legalize medical marijuana, allow physician-assisted suicide and overhaul car repair rules.
But the state’s most closely watched contest, and the most expensive in its history, pitted Brown against Warren. The candidates combined have spent a record $68 million on the campaign, but an unusual agreement they reached to keep outside groups from advertising held through the end.
Brown and Warren stood in line before casting their votes shortly after polls opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday in their hometowns.
Brown, who won a 2010 special election to succeed the late Democrat Edward Kennedy, waited in line with his family at Wrentham Middle School before voting. Warren, a Harvard Law School professor, was accompanied by her husband and more than a dozen other family members when she voted at the Graham Parks School in Cambridge.
Both candidates planned to spend the rest of the day visiting other polling places and phone banks before settling in to wait for results.
That tough-fought race was evident as some independent voters left polls, reporting difficulty choosing candidates.
In Wayland, a western suburb of Boston, 53-year-old Bob Virzi said he picked Warren for the Senate.
“It was a tough call,” he said. “I just feel like we can’t let the Senate go into Republican control. I like Scott Brown, but if you look at his record, it’s not as clear-cut as it should be.”
Virzi, an unaffiliated voter who describes himself as a semi-retired consultant, also voted for Obama, saying the economy was much better off than when he took office.
Lynda Connell, 50, a registered nurse from Whitman, said she voted for Brown because she believes he is willing to work with Republicans and Democrats.
“He’s very bipartisan, and he’s voted on the issues, not just by the party,” Connell said.
Connell said she voted for Romney for fiscal reasons.
“He’s run a major company. I liked him when he was governor. I think he did a good job,” she said.
Romney drew high security when he and his wife cast their ballots in suburban Belmont, which they still call home. They were then off to Ohio and Pennsylvania for last-day campaigning in key swing states.
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin said mostly anecdotal reports around the state pointed to a strong turnout, with long lines at some polling places. He said his earlier prediction of matching or possibly exceeding the record 3.1 million people who voted in the 2008 presidential election was within reach.
In Boston, more than 55 percent of registered voters had cast ballots by 6 p.m., which was higher than the 52.5 percent who had voted in Boston by that same time in the 2008 election.
Galvin said he had received relatively few reports of major voting problems and most had been resolved.
In Billerica, for example, workers at a polling place became concerned that they might run out of ballots because the town apparently hadn’t given them enough, Galvin said. A police car, lights flashing, was dispatched to deliver more ballots, and no one was denied a chance to vote.
“Nobody left. Everybody got their ballots,” Galvin said. “It all ended happily.”
The presidential and Senate contests drove interest in the election. Boston has registered 28,930 new voters since September’s primary. Statewide since February, nearly 232,000 new voters have been added to the rolls.
Voters also were being asked to decide three ballot questions.
Question 1 would require automakers to share diagnostic and repair information with independent mechanics. Question 2 would allow doctors to prescribe life-ending medication at the request of certain terminally ill patients. Question 3 would allow marijuana to be used for some medical purposes.
There also were a number of high-profile congressional races.
Voters in the open 4th Congressional District were choosing between Democrat Joseph Kennedy III and Republican Sean Bielat. Kennedy is the son of former U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy II and grandson of the late Robert F. Kennedy. He’s the first family member of his generation to seek elective office.
The fiercest congressional contest was in the 6th District, where Republican Richard Tisei challenged Rep. John Tierney, who was hurt by a gambling scandal involving his wife. If Tisei wins, he would be the first Massachusetts Republican elected to the House since 1994. He has said he also would be the first openly gay Republican candidate elected to the House.