BOSTON >> Contests to fill the seats of three departing Democratic state senators are among the highlights of an unusual Thursday primary election in Massachusetts that has generated scant attention, largely because there are no statewide or other high-profile races.

None of the nine members of the state's all-Democratic U.S. House delegation face challenges within their own party, and Republicans are fielding candidates in only four districts. U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey are not up for re-election this year and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker along with the state's other constitutional officers have more than two years remaining in their current terms.

Turnout for the Thursday primary could be further dampened by confusion over the election being held on Thursday, as Massachusetts voters are accustomed to going to the polls on a Tuesday. Secretary of State William Galvin did not want to schedule the election on Sept. 6, the day after Labor Day when many schools are reopening, and said moving the primary later into September would complicate absentee deadlines.

All 200 seats in the Legislature are up for grabs but many incumbents seeking re-election face little or no competition. Democrats should easily maintain their veto-proof majorities in both chambers for the next legislative session.

The most spirited races include those to succeed the departing Senate Democrats.


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Sen. Brian Joyce leaves under a cloud after reports that he was being investigated for improperly using his legislative position to boost his private law practice. The Milton Democrat, who has denied wrongdoing, had his law office raided by federal agents in February.

State Rep. Walter Timilty and Nora Harrington, the chief operating officer of a behavioral health practice, are vying for the Democratic nomination to succeed Joyce. Both are from Milton. There are no Republican contenders, but the Democratic primary winner will face independent Jon Lott of Stoughton in November.

Three Democrats are vying for their party's nomination to fill the Berkshires Senate seat now held by Benjamin Downing: Rinaldo Del Gallo, a Pittsfield attorney; Andrea Harrington, an attorney from Richmond; and Adam Hinds, a community organizer and one-time aide to former U.S. Rep. John Olver.

The sole Republican candidate, Christine Canning, of Lanesborough, will face the Democratic winner in November.

Considered a rising star within the Democratic party, Downing surprised Beacon Hill with his decision to leave the Senate and pursue other interests.

Democratic and Republican contests will also be held Thursday in the Senate district that includes Cape Cod and the Islands. Sen. Dan Wolf, the co-founder of Cape Air, is leaving after three terms but hasn't ruled out a run for governor in 2018.

The Democratic contenders are: state Rep. Brian Mannal, of Barnstable; Julian Cyr, a former state public health official from Truro; and Sheila Lyons, a Barnstable County Commissioner from Wellfleet. Jim Crocker, a businessman from Barnstable and Anthony Schiavi, a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general from Harwich, vie for the GOP nod.

A handful of House incumbents are also calling it quits, including long-time Democratic Rep. Benjamin Swan, of Springfield. His son, Benjamin Swan Jr., is one of four Springfield Democrats running for the seat. The others are City Councilor Bud Williams, former civic center commissioner Ken Barnett and Larry Lawson, who has run unsuccessfully for the seat in the past.

The state's lone congressional primary on Thursday is in the Ninth District, where Republicans Mark Alliegro, a scientist from Falmouth and Thomas O'Malley, a former U.S. Navy commander from Marshfield, are competing for their party's nomination and the opportunity to challenge incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. William Keating in November.

The most crowded primary field is in the race for sheriff of Essex County, where five Democrats and six Republicans are vying for the fall ballot and a chance to succeed Republican Sheriff Frank Cousins, who is retiring.