Voters in five Eastern U.S. states faced primary election choices on Tuesday, with Democrats in Massachusetts and Rhode Island picking among candidates who could include each state’s first elected woman governor while New Hampshire and Delaware decided on Republicans to challenge Democratic incumbents in the U.S. Senate.
Polls prior to the start of voting showed Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and Rhode Island state Treasurer Gina Raimondo leading competitive fields to win the Democratic nomination to run as governor.
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, Amy Perlack, 28, who works in the healthcare field, said she had just voted for Coakley.
“I like that she is a female candidate so there is some allegiance there,” Perlack said.
Coakley’s top primary rival is state Treasurer Steve Grossman, with Republican businessman Charlie Baker seen leading his party’s field.
In Rhode Island, Raimondo has a narrower lead in polls over Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, with the top Republican candidates being Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and software executive Ken Block.
Some Massachusetts Democrats are wary about Coakley’s chances in the general election, following her stunning 2010 loss to Scott Brown in an off-cycle race to fill the U.S. Senate seat made available by the death of Edward M. Kennedy, but Perlack said she was confidence Coakley had learned from that experience.
“She may have taken it for granted that in a heavily Democratic state, people would just come out,” Perlack said. “This time she is campaigning full force.”
Coakley would be the first woman elected governor of Massachusetts but the second to hold the office. Republican Jane Swift became acting governor in 2001 when Paul Cellucci resigned to take a post as U.S. ambassador to Canada.
Brown also is on the ballot on Tuesday but in neighboring New Hampshire, where he is in a three-way primary to win the Republican nomination to run for U.S. Senate, seeking to unseat Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen.
New Hampshire voters also face a choice between Republican businessman Walt Havenstein and Tea Party activist Andrew Hemingway to take on Governor Maggie Hassan.
In Delaware, businessmen Carl Smink and Kevin Wade are competing for the Republican nomination to take on Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Coons in November.
In New York, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo faces a long-shot primary challenge in left-leaning political neophyte Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor and former Occupy Wall Street activist.
Cuomo has done his best to ignore his primary rival.
“Experience matters,” he said in a campaign appearance on Monday.
Polls are due to close at 7 p.m. ET (2300 GMT) in New Hampshire, at 7:30 p.m. ET (2330 GMT) in Delaware, at 8 p.m. (2400 GMT) in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and at 9 p.m. (0100 GMT) in New York.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Grant McCool and Bill Trott)