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Party primaries set for Tuesday

Mississippi voters will have the opportunity to visit the polls Tuesday, but local election officials doubt they will in large numbers.

     “The turnout won’t be enormous,” said Lincoln County Republican Party chairman John Roberts. “It’s going to be low.”

     Only federal offices are up for grabs Tuesday with candidates vying for president, U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives nominations. Polls in Tuesday’s primary will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

     Bonita Bullock, a Lincoln County GOP executive committee member, said a turnout rate of 20 percent of registered voters would be a success.

     Local Democratic chairwoman Helen Funk offered a similar assessment.

     “If we get 700 people on our side, it will be good,” Funk said.

     Presumably, the most significant draw in the primary will be the Republican race for presidential nominee. Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul all maintain active campaigns and will be on Mississippi’s ballot alongside candidates that have dropped out of the race such as Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.

     Roberts sees the presidential primary in Mississippi as a two-man race between Romney and Santorum. He said he’s not sure, though, which way Lincoln County Republicans will go.

     No matter the outcome, Roberts believes Republicans will have a strong candidate.

     “Whoever we get will be better than what we have,” said Roberts, speaking of the incumbent president.

     On the incumbent side, Barack Obama faces no Democratic primary opponent in Mississippi.

     In the U.S. Congressional 3rd District, incumbent Rep. Gregg Harper will see Robert Allen of Sturgis in the Republic primary. Crystal Biggs of Florence has no opposition in the Democratic primary.

     Roberts believes Harper will win earn a nomination again overwhelmingly.

     “Harper has proven to be a great congressman and is very loyal to Lincoln County,” Roberts said. “He’s down here all the time.”

     Incumbent U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker will look to fend off challenges from E. Allen Hathcock of Stewart and Robert Maloney of Madison in the Republican primary.

     In the only contested race on the Democratic ballot, Albert N. Gore Jr., Will Oatis and Roger Weiner all look to take the nomination and likely face the incumbent Wicker in November.

     Congressional and Senate races have slipped under most people’s radar, Bullock said. If Harper or Wicker is mentioned in conversation, Bullock said she’s often asked, “What are they running for?”

     Roberts plans to put some campaign signs out soon for Harper to help increase the visibility of that race.

     “If they pop out Sunday or Monday, people will see them and remember we have a primary,” Roberts said.

     Roberts did point to absentee voting as a source of optimism, at least for Republicans. When Roberts last checked, 82 out of 100 people voting absentee had done so on the Republican ballot.

     As of Friday afternoon, total absentee ballots had edged upward a little to 116.

     Still, all past experience points to a middling turnout.

     “It’s going to be a long, slow day,” Bullock said.