Low Turnout Expected for NC Senate Runoff

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Election officials anticipate tepidparticipation in a runoff election Tuesday that will shape the topof North Carolina's ballot this year and settle some primaries forCongress a state legislative post.

Democratic voters around the state will decide the party'snominee for U.S. Senate, ending a grueling primary between ElaineMarshall and Cal Cunningham that went into overtime after a firstvote in early May failed to produce an outright winner. Electionorganizers estimated that 100,000 to 150,000 people may actuallyparticipate in the Senate runoff, compared to the 425,000 who chosefrom among six candidates in May.

Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

"Now is the time to make the choice to determine who yournominee will be," said Cherie Poucher, director of the Wake CountyBoard of Elections.

So far, voters appear uninterested in the results, with only asparse 38,000 turning out in early balloting across the state. Bothcandidates said voters seemed distracted by summer vacations.Marshall noted that there was a lack of local races to drawinterest, so her campaign was trying to target voters who had atrack record of turning out in all elections.

"We're just trying to hunt where the birds are," saidMarshall, North Carolina's secretary of state.

Marshall and Cunningham will top the ballot across the state forthose voting on the Democratic ticket, and the winner will move onto challenge Republican Sen. Richard Burr in November. The runoffwill also settle three Republican primaries for Congress and aDemocratic race for state Senate.

Cunningham, a Lexington attorney and former state senator, hasbeen a favorite of party leaders in Washington who view him as thebest candidate to defeat Burr. The Democratic Senatorial CampaignCommittee has spent more than $100,000 to help his campaign. In afinal automated call to voters, retired General Wesley Clark urgedNorth Carolina residents to come out and support Cunningham, anIraq War veteran.

Cunningham said he was focused on making sure voters knew therewas an election, and he was still spending time introducing himselfto those who may cast a ballot.

"Elaine has a 14-year head start with educating Democrats aboutwho she is," Cunningham said. "We've been carrying an extraburden of making sure the Democrats are comfortable with where Istand on the issues and are comfortable with this candidacy."

Although Marshall has more experience in politics, she has usedCunningham's support from Washington to cast herself as theoutsider. She won 36 percent of the vote in the first primary inearly May, while Cunningham finished second with 27 percent andexercised his right to request a runoff

In the 8th Congressional District along the state'ssouth-central border, voters have watched a contentious Republicanprimary between two candidates seeking a slot on the ballot inNorth Carolina's most competitive district. Democrat Larry Kissellwon the seat two years ago.

Tim D'Annunzio, a GOP businessman who has poured more than $1.2million of his own money in the race, drew early support from teaparty activists for his platform to dismantle entire branches ofthe federal government. But Republican leaders have since denouncedhim after documents from D'Annunzio's messy divorce indicated ahistory of years-ago crimes, drug use and bizarre religious claims.

He's facing off against former Charlotte sportscaster HaroldJohnson.

In the Republican primary for the 13th Congressional District,which stretches from Raleigh to Greensboro and along the Virginiaborder, voters will decide between magazine publisher Bernie Reevesand retired Navy officer Bill Randall. In the party's 12th Districtrace, voters will have computer industry employee Scott Cumbiesecurity firm executive Greg Dority on the ballot. Those winnerswill move on to face Democratic lawmakers who have comfortablyretained their seats in past elections.

Democratic voters in Cumberland County also have a state Senaterace between Eric Mansfield and Lula Crenshaw.

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