LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After hours and hours of television commercials, months of campaigning and endless fundraising pitches, Kentucky voters prepared to cast ballots Tuesday in party primaries in multiple races, both statewide and local.
Polls around the state opened at 6 a.m. in both the Eastern and Central time zones.
Kentucky Secretary of State spokesman Les Fugate said early turnout appeared to be low, but was expected to be around 30 percent statewide. In 2008, with a presidential primary on the ballot, turnout came in at between 25 and 30 percent. In 2007, with a gubernatorial primary on the ballot, turnout was about 21 percent.
This year's ballot features U.S. Senate party primaries at the top of the ticket.
Fugate said there were some complaints about electioneering at the polls, but no mechanical problems with machines or polling places opening late.
"We've not have heard of any machine issues. It seems to be smooth sailing," Fugate said. "It is spotty. In some counties, we're hearing of good turnout."
This year's ballot includes U.S. Senate party primaries at the top of the ticket, with Bowling Green eye doctor Rand Paul and Secretary of State Trey Grayson battling for the Republican nomination and Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo vying for the Democratic nomination.
The winners in those races will face off in November to replace Republican Jim Bunning, who is retiring.
Voters in Louisville trickled in to polling places under a cloudy sky that dropped occasional rain.
Roger Burnett, a 46-year-old data analyst, voted for Paul at St. Matthews Baptist Church in eastern Louisville. Burnett called the vote part of a "message election" similar to 1994, when Republicans swept to power in the House and Senate. Burnett said Paul can help send the message that the government needs to get its books in order.
"We voted for change. Well, we got some change and we're spending it like mad," Burnett said.
In the southern end of Louisville, 60-year-old bookkeeper Martie Reynolds chose Mongiardo in the Democratic primary.
"I get tired of the political slinging back and forth and he seemed to have less slinging," Reynolds said.
Around the state, voters will also choose nominees in several congressional races, including a field of Republicans seeking to take on incumbent Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Louisville, and Rep. Ben Chandler, a Democrat from Lexington.
The ballot also features state legislative races and candidates in a host of local offices, highlighted by the race in Louisville to replace longtime mayor Jerry Abramson.
Abramson, who has served two terms at the top of the merged city-county government, is leaving the post at the end of the year to run for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Gov. Steve Beshear in 2011. Mongiardo dropped an re-election bid when he announced for the Senate race.