With next week's special state primary election looming on the horizon, Northern Berkshire's city and town clerks are reporting a lack of excitement from voters thus far.
Based on absentee ballots, which can be seen as a preview of voter turnout, North Adams, Adams, Williamstown and Cheshire aren't expecting crowds swarming their polling places during the Tuesday, April 30 primary. The primary will narrow to one each the Democratic and Republican field of candidates in the state special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by now Secretary of State John Kerry.
"I think it's going to be very quiet, not like when [Massachusetts Attorney General] Martha Coakley was running [in a special election against Scott Brown in 2010]. That was lively," Williamstown Town Clerk Mary Kennedy said this week.
"It's definitely been low key -- we're semi-amazed," said Adams Town Clerk Haley Meczywor. "But I'm not complaining because we have [town elections] the week after."
Tuesday, April 30 will also mark local elections for Williamstown and Hancock, after those towns moved their annual elections to coincide with the primary. In North Adams, a special election will be held that day where voters will decide on the borrowing order for the Conte School Renovation Project.
The primary pits Democrat contenders U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch against U.S. Rep. Edward Markey and on the Republican side, private equity investor Gabriel Gomez, former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan and state Rep. Daniel Winslow.
Democratic organization Berkshire Brigades won't endorse a candidate until after the primary.
"They're both really, really experienced," said Sheila Murray, chairwoman of the organization. "Both could be good."
North Adams Democratic Committee Ward 5 Chair Frances Buckley said she's still torn.
"I'll make up my mind Tuesday when I walk into the polling place," she said.
Markey, who was very active in holding British Petroleum accountable after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and opposes the Keystone XL pipeline -- which Lynch has supported -- is generally regarded as better on the environment.
But Lynch, the steelworker-turned-congressman, has proven the choice of organized labor. The lion's share of Lynch's campaign funding comes from labor, at $287,000, whereas Markey's top sector for donations is lawyers and lobbyists, at $195,000, according to votesmart.org.
Lynch opposed the 2008 Wall Street bailout while Markey voted in favor, and the split was the same President Obama's 2009 Affordable Care Act and the 2013 Progressive Caucus Budget for All.
For the Republicans, Gomez, a former Navy SEAL, and Winslow identify as moderate on social issues, each supporting gay marriage and Winslow a woman's right to choose on abortion, while Gomez, though pro-life, thinks Roe v. Wade "settled law," according to his website.
Sullivan, on the other hand, is viewed as the "tea party-friendly" candidate.
All support gun rights, cutting taxes and think Washington should reel in spending.
Adams resident Steve Melito is chair of the Gomez campaign in that town and North Adams.
"The response to Gabriel Gomez has been very positive because he goes against the negative image of Republicans as a party for cranky old white men," Melito said. "He's a young, energetic guy and a real quality individual -- not a career politician."
Gomez leads Sullivan 33 to 27 percent with Winslow trailing at 9, according to the latest Western New England University polls.
The same poll has Markey up 10 points on Lynch, 44 to 34 percent, but 21 percent are undecided and 36 percent might change their minds.
The same poll shows jobs, the economy, unemployment and Wall Street as the issues voters care most about.
Murray said her group plans to push hard, via phone-banking and door-to-door campaigning, for whichever Democrat ends up the candidate.
"We don't want to end up with another Scott Brown situation," she said. "[Sen.] Elizabeth [Warren] deserves a good partner to work with in Washington."
The candidate eventually elected will serve out the remainder of John Kerry's term and be up for re-election in 2014.
Voting in all communities takes place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
To reach Phil Demers, email