HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The presidential race and one of the most closely watched and costly U.S. Senate battles in the country are atop Connecticut ballots as voters finally get their say after being bombarded with months of political ads.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill expects 75 to 80 percent of Connecticut's nearly 2.1 million registered voters to head to the polls Tuesday, only a day after power was restored to all remaining polling places in the state left largely in the dark after Superstorm Sandy.
President Barack Obama is expected to take the state's seven electoral votes in his re-election bid against Republican Mitt Romney. The last Republican to win Connecticut's presidential vote was George H.W. Bush in 1988.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy and Republican wrestling executive Linda McMahon are in a tight race to succeed retiring independent U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman. The contest has been inundated with $10 million in independent expenditures by outside groups, as Democrats try to retain their slim majority in the Senate.
As of late October, McMahon had spent $42.6 million of her own money on the race, nearly matching the $50 million she spent on her failed 2010 Senate race. Murphy had raised more than $9 million.
National Republicans also hoped to add to their majority in the U.S. House by winning the state's 4th and 5th Congressional District seats. Democrats have held all five of Connecticut's House seats since 2008.
Republican state Sen. Andrew Roraback and Democratic former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty are vying to win the 5th Congressional District seat now held by Murphy. Outside groups have funneled $5.9 million into that race.
In the 4th District, which includes wealthy Fairfield County, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Himes is facing a challenge from Republican Steve Obsitnik, recently named a "young gun" by the National Republican Congressional Committee, identifying him as a strong contender. The GOP held the seat for decades before Himes beat Rep. Chris Shays four years ago on Obama's coattails.
Also seeking re-election are Democratic U.S. Reps. John Larson, Joe Courtney and Rosa DeLauro.
All the state's legislative seats are up for grabs, with Democrats expected to retain majorities in the House and Senate. Voters will also be deciding local ballot questions on municipal spending proposals.
John Lowney, 58, of Columbia, a soccer coach at the University of Hartford, said he voted for Obama and Murphy.
"I think the economy has started to move in the right direction. I don't think it's there yet, and based on what I've seen of Romney I just don't trust him."
Paul Kubala, 71, also of Columbia, would not say how he voted. The retired lab analyst for a wastewater treatment plant said the ads in the U.S. Senate race were disgusting, absolutely disgusting."
"You got this Linda McMahon and this Chris Murphy and even the president and this other guy, all they do is just go back and forth slinging mud at each other," he said. "Tell me what you really did positively and what you are going to do."
Merrill said Monday voter registration rolls have swelled by more than 200,000 people since January, with a little less than half not affiliating with the two major parties. Young people, ages 18 to 29, comprised the largest group of new voters with nearly 90,100 registrations.
Among the new registered voters, about 70,900 are Democrats and 33,000 are Republicans.
Polls opened at 6 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m.
Merrill said all but two of the state's 773 voting precincts will be open Tuesday. The two polling places, in New London and Bridgeport, were relocated because of Superstorm Sandy.
Associated Press Writer Pat Eaton-Robb in Columbia contributed to this report.
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