BOSTON — The party faithful head to the polls next Tuesday to decide races for Congress, governor, secretary of state and the Legislature.
Turnout in state primaries is traditionally low, but political observers are predicting an even worse showing this time around. That's because the election will be held the day after the Labor Day holiday, when many people are still on vacation or focused on sending children back to school.
"This is going to be a total party insiders primary," said Erin O'Brien, professor and chairwoman of the political science department at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. "Turnout is going to be abysmal, because of the date and the fact that most people aren't paying attention to it."
"For the candidates, it will be all about the ground game," she added. "Whoever can get their folks to the polls will win."
More than 4.5 million people will be eligible to vote in Massachusetts on Tuesday, according to elections officials. The majority, about 55 percent, are not affiliated with a political party.
Under Massachusetts' system of open primaries, so-called "un-enrolled" or independent voters can choose a Republican, Democratic or Libertarian ballot.
Registered Democrats can vote only in the Democratic primary, while Republicans can vote only on the GOP ballot.
Topping the statewide races is a GOP contest between Gov. Charlie Baker, who is seeking a second four-year term, and anti-gay pastor Scott Lively.
Baker, of Swampscott, is running on his record with the backing of the state's Republican Party, which earlier this year scrapped its policy of neutrality to support his re-election bid.
Lively, of Springfield, shocked political observers by picking up nearly 30 percent of the votes at the GOP state convention this spring, in part by tapping the resentment of conservatives who say Baker has distanced himself from President Donald Trump and issues from abortion to illegal immigration.
Despite that, Baker has largely ignored Lively -- who has called homosexuality a "crime" -- telling reporters that most of his views "don't belong in public discourse."
Baker, who supports abortion rights and gay marriage, narrowly edged out Democrat Martha Coakley for the governor’s office four years ago.
His popularity remains at stratospheric highs with polls showing his support comes from a broad spectrum of the electorate, including Democrats.
Should Baker and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, a Shrewsbury Republican, win the primary, they’ll face the winners of the Democratic gubernatorial primary between Jay Gonzalez and Bob Massie.
Gonzalez, a former secretary of administration and finance under former Gov. Deval Patrick, and Massie, a businessman and environmental activist, have struggled to build name recognition in their campaigns to return the governor's office to the Democrats.
Baker has also been ahead in the money race, with more than $8.4 million in his campaign account as of the beginning of August, according to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. That's compared to $13,000 raised by Lively, $432,000 for Gonzalez and $109,000 for Massie during the same period.
Democrats Quentin Palfrey and Jimmy Tingle are running separately for the lieutenant governor’s job. Polito faces no primary challenge.
Secretary of state
Another contested race is the Democratic primary for the secretary of state's job, which normally doesn't attract much attention.
Secretary of State William Galvin, the longest-serving official elected statewide, faces a battle from within his own party for the first time in years.
Josh Zakim, a Boston city councilor, is challenging Galvin’s decades-old hold on the office. He has made criticism of Galvin's handling of the state elections office a key part of his platform, and even accused the fellow Democrat of trying to dampen voter turnout in the upcoming primary.
"The confidence of voters in the fairness of our elections is probably one of the central responsibilities for a secretary of state," Zakim, 33, said in an interview. "We should be making it easier and more convenient for people to vote, not putting up additional barriers, which is what Galvin appears to be doing."
When Galvin set the primary for Sept. 4 — the day after Labor Day holiday — to avoid conflicts with Jewish holidays, Zakim criticized the move and said it would lessen turnout. He suggested that Galvin was stacking the deck in his favor, as lower turnout generally benefits incumbents.
Galvin, 67, of Brighton, first won the office in 1994 and has only drawn one Democratic challenger since -- in 2006, when he beat John Bonifaz with 82 percent of the vote.
In 2014, he handily won with 67 percent of the vote over Republican David D'Arcangelo and Green-Rainbow Party candidate Daniel Factor.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Anthony Amore, of Swampscott, who is unopposed on Tuesday's ballot.
Meanwhile, the scramble to succeed U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas is the marquee race in the Merrimack Valley, with a dozen candidates running for the open seat.
Ten Democrats are seeking the party's nomination on Tuesday to advance to the November elections and represent the sprawling district -- a diverse group of gateway cities, affluent towns and rural communities that stretches along the New Hampshire border, from Winchendon Springs to Merrimac and south down to Hudson and Marlborough. Locally, the district includes the cities of Lawrence, Methuen, Haverhill and Lowell.
Tsongas, a Democrat who has represented the district since 2007, is retiring.
The Democrat who wins will face Republican Rick Green, a Pepperell businessman, and independent Mike Mullen, of Maynard, both of whom are unopposed.
Meanwhile, three Republicans are seeking the party's nod to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is unopposed in the primary.
Geoff Diehl, a state representative from Whitman who co-chaired Donald Trump’s 2016 Massachusetts campaign, John Kingston, a business executive, and Beth Lindstrom, a cabinet official under former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, will be on Tuesday's statewide ballot.
There are only a handful of contested legislative primaries on Tuesday's ballot, with most incumbent lawmakers getting a free pass to the November election.
Of 40 Senate seats, only seven Democratic primaries are contested, and there are no primary races on the Republican side.
That includes the First Essex Senate seat held by Republican Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester, who didn't field any GOP challengers, and Rep. Diana DiZoglio, a Methuen Democrat, who is uncontested in the primary in her bid to win the Senate seat currently held by Kathleen O'Connor-Ives, D-Newburyport.
In the 160-seat House, there are just 35 contested Democratic primaries and six contested Republican primaries.
Locally, Rep. Jerald Parisella, a Beverly Democrat, faces a challenge from Euplio "Rick" Marciano, a perennial candidate for Beverly mayor and city council.
Two Democrats -- Lisa Yarid Ferry of Methuen and Christina Minicucci of North Andover -- are vying for the 14th Essex District seat vacated by DiZoglio in her run for the state Senate.
The winner will face Republican Ryan Losco, of North Andover, in November.
And in Lawrence, voters will find familiar names on the Democratic primary ballot to replace Rep. Juana Matias, who is running for Congress.
Former mayor and state lawmaker William Lantigua and Marcos Devers, who held the seat from 2010 to 2016, are both vying to return to Beacon Hill.
Polls across the state will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Voters may find their polling place information and view a sample ballot here: www.WhereDoIVoteMA.com
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contested primaries 2018
U.S. House/3rd District
Jeffrey D. Ballinger, D-Andover
Alexandra E. Chandler, D-Haverhill
Beej Das, D-Lowell
Rufus Gifford, D-Concord
Leonard Golder, D-Stow
Daniel Koh, D-Andover
Barbara L'Italien, D-Andover
Bopha Malone, D-Bedford
Juana Matias, D-Lawrence
Lori Trahan, D-Westford
Jay Gonzalez, D-Needham
Bob Massie, D-Somerville
Quentin Palfrey, D-Weston
Jimmy Tingle, D-Cambridge
Governor's Council/5th District
* Eileen Duff, D-Gloucester
Nicholas Torresi, D-Methuen
2nd Essex/Middlesex District
Mike Armano, D-Dracut
Barry Finegold, D-Andover
Pavel Payano, D-Lawrence
6th Essex District
* Jerald A. Parisella, D-Beverly
Euplio R. Marciano, D-Beverly
14th Essex District
Lisa J. Yarid-Ferry, D-Methuen
Christina A. Minicucci, D-North Andover
16th Essex District
Marcos Devers, D-Lawrence
William Lantigua, D-Lawrence
Register of Deeds/Northern Essex District
* M. Paul Iannuccillo, D-North Andover
Michael Fielding, D-Lawrence
Alexcy Vega, D-Lawrence
Geoff Diehl, R-Whitman
John Kingston, R-Winchester
Beth Joyce Lindstrom, R-Groton
* Charles D. Baker, R-Swampscott
Scott D. Lively, R-Springfield
James R. McMahon, III, R-Bourne
Daniel L. Shores, R-Hingham
Source: Secretary of State's election division. * denotes incumbent