Today's primary will choose nominees for governor, other slots

Officials predict low voter turnout

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Voters have the chance to choose their nominees for governor, lieutenant governor, Congress and the Legislature today -- which is not to say that most will.

History strongly suggests that the vast majority of potential voters won't go anywhere near a polling place. Mark Wolosik, who directs the Allegheny County Elections Division, projects that roughly 20 percent of the county's registered Republicans will cast ballots in an election in which the top-of-the-ticket candidates, Gov. Tom Corbett and Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, are unopposed. He expects the county's Democrats to respond to a contested governor's race with a 30 percent turnout.

Four years ago, with contested primaries in both major parties, just over 28 percent of Republicans and a similar proportion of Democrats showed up in the county.

Tom Wolf, the York County businessman, is heavily favored over a Democratic field that also includes state Treasurer Rob McCord, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and Katie McGinty, a former state secretary of environmental protection.

A hotly contested Democratic primary for the Montgomery County-based seat that Ms. Schwartz is vacating could spur turnout in some Philadelphia suburban communities, but overall few races across the state piqued intense interest. Only two members of the state's Congressional delegation face challengers, and neither of them appear to be in any danger of being ousted.

Democrats can choose among five candidates in the low-profile race for their lieutenant governor nominee. The contenders are former U.S. Rep. Mark Critz; state Rep. Brandon Neuman, of Washington County; state Sen. Mike Stack of Philadelphia; Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith and Harrisburg city Councilman Brad Koplinski. Mr. Stack has raised the most money, but in contrast to the governor's race, no clear favorite has emerged.

Four years ago, when Mr. Corbett captured the GOP nomination and former Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato won the Democratic primary, just over a million Democrats voted statewide, and roughly 860,000 Republicans cast a ballot.

Presidential years predictably lure much larger turnouts. In 2008, when former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and then-Sen. Barack Obama battled over Pennsylvania's delegates, more than 2.3 million Democrats voted. The Republican turnout was just a little more than 815,000, but although three GOP names were on the ballot, Sen. John McCain had long since clinched the GOP nomination.

Most Allegheny County offices will be closed today in deference to the election. City offices will be unaffected and services such as garbage collection will be on a normal schedule. Also working normal hours will be the courts, the county district attorney's office, and the controller's office. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Politics editor James O'Toole: or 412-263-1562.

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