Heated Senate race, medical marijuana on ballots Tuesday

As election season comes to a close, Massachusetts voters face a hotly contested Senate race and the Commonwealth’s controversial ballot questions as they fill the booths on Tuesday.

The Senate race between Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, one of the most closely watched in the nation, is shaping up to also be the costliest race in the Bay State’s history.

The race is expected to be close, with a recent University of Massachusetts Lowell and Boston Herald poll showing Brown edging one point over Warren.

“It’s true the lot of people will vote for Obama and then will vote for Brown for Senate,” said Graham Wilson, department chair for the Political Science Department at Boston University. “But, on the other hand I think the bigger the Obama total in Mass., the more likely it is that she [Warren] will win.”

Brown, who won the seat after the death of longtime U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, has campaigned on a message of independence, boasting a record of bipartisanship in Congress.

Warren, a professor of law at Harvard University, has campaigned on a message of advocacy for the people, citing her work against Wall Street and other corporations.

Both the Massachusetts Democratic Party and the Massachusetts Republican Party cited how important this upcoming election is for the Commonwealth.

“The Senate race is important because D.C. is gridlocked and Senator Brown is one of the few people actually doing something about it,” said Tim Buckley, the communications director for the Massachusetts Republican Party. “A Scott Brown victory will mean we will have balance in our congressional delegation again.”

Kevin Franck, communications director for the Massachusetts Democratic Party, also said this election would be very important for the future of the nation, but said a Warren win would strengthen the country.

“The race is between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown,” Franck said. “But the decision is really between a U.S. Senate that is run by Democrats or a U.S. Senate that will be taken over by a Tea Party Republican crew that will set about systematically dismantling all of President Obama’s accomplishments.”

Buckley declined to predict whether Brown or Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would win on Tuesday, but optimism runs high for the Republicans in Massachusetts, he said.

Franck also said he feels confident that Democrats will perform well on Election Day.

“The prospects for Democratic candidates in Massachusetts are very good right now,” Franck said. “We are confident on election day that Massachusetts voters will continue to vote for Massachusetts Democrats because their ideas are better and the candidates are better.”

Wilson said he also foresees a strong showing for Democrats on Tuesday.

“I would predict that Barack Obama will carry Massachusetts,” he said. “I will stick my neck out and say that, however it is tremendously important for Warren, that he do that by a large margin.”

Democratic Eighth District Rep. Michael Capuano is running for the Seventh district, which includes Boston University, against Karla Romero, an Independent.

Joseph Kennedy III, a former prosecutor, is running for the Fourth Congressional District as a Democrat against Sean Bielat, a Republican who serves in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

Massachusetts also has three questions on the ballot in the 2012 election.

The first question on the ballot deals with the availability of motor vehicle repair information. If passed, it would force dealerships to provide vehicle owners and independent repair shops to have access to the same vehicle information the dealership has.

The second question on the ballot, which would legalize physician-assisted suicide if passed, has received the most attention, Wilson said.

If passed, this bill would allow a state-licensed physician to prescribe medication to a terminally ill patient that would end his or her life, according to the website of Secretary of Massachusetts William Galvin.

“My guess is that it’s going to fail,” Wilson said. “I see a lot of opposition and I don’t see equally passionate support.”

In a Western New England University poll conducted from Oct. 26 through Nov. 1, 43 percent of respondents backed the death with dignity measure while 44 percent opposed it.

The third question on the ballot is for the legalization of the medical use of marijuana.

If passed, criminal and civil penalties regarding the use of marijuana for medical purposes would be eliminated.

Wilson said he is confident Question 3 will pass, but said making predictions is always hazardous.

“There will be some people who will think that it is medically useful, and other people who think that it’s time we stop making such a big fuss about marijuana anyway,” he said. “So my instinct is that it’s going to pass.”

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