High voter turnout expected for Tuesday's primary

With less than a day to go before polling locations open for the upcoming primary elections, local party chairmen say they have seen increased interest in this year’s races that could translate into high voter turnout come Tuesday.

With less than a day to go before polling locations open for the upcoming primary elections, local party chairmen say they have seen increased interest in this year’s races that could translate into high voter turnout come Tuesday.

Residents have until noon today to vote early in this year’s primary election, or they can wait until polls open Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Early voting locations are Election Central at Madison and Seventh streets and Room 200 in the Showers Building at 501 N. Morton St.

Monroe County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Fraley said this primary election has been competitive from the presidential level on down. He said voter interest is always higher in presidential election years and expects a strong showing at the polls come Tuesday.

Monroe County Republican Party Chairman William Ellis said turnout for early voting has been good for Republicans. He said while the presidential election is driving most of the interest from voters, the race for the 9th Congressional District is another that many voters are watching closely. The race between Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has gotten different sets of voters on the Republican side fired up about this election.

“We’ve been gaining a few new voters, but some seem to be just crossing over party lines,” Ellis said.

On the Democratic side, the race between U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also drawn a lot of enthusiasm from voters, Fraley said.

However, both party chairmen emphasized that the local elections remain just as important.

“We are electing people who make decisions on planning, economic development and water quality. We’re also electing people who are responsible for ensuring that Monroe County taxpayers’ money is spent responsibly and that social services are adequately funded,” Fraley said.

There are 12 county offices on the ballot this year, and for the upcoming primary, five of those are contested races: a Democratic and Republican primary for county commissioner District 3 and Democratic primaries for auditor, treasurer and circuit court judge, seat 1. Of the races up for election, none of the incumbents, all Democrats, have a challenger in the primaries, and the Republicans have a few slots to fill before the general election.

Ellis said the focus for Republican candidates in the upcoming primary remains the same: changing the status quo in the county.

“We’ve had a 10-year neglect in local government with no one, at any level, wanting to address the root cause of the issue,” Ellis said.

He said the Republican candidates in this year’s election are willing to address many of the county’s issues from transparency, whether in regard to investigations into the misuse of credit cards by elected officials that involved the last two auditor office administrations or to checks and balances on issues such as “at will” firing of employees.

“I think we have the best pool of candidates I’ve seen, locally,” Ellis said. “No one can claim the Republican Party is offering “lightweight” candidates compared to their challengers.”

Fraley said Democratic voters have a wealth of candidates to choose from. Races of interest in this primary election include auditor and treasurer, he said, as many Democrats are concerned about how the county finances are managed.

“We have several contested elections in which highly qualified, energetic and compassionate people are offering competing visions for local governance,” Fraley said.

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