(AP/Huffington Post) -- Massachusetts voters on Tuesday began the process of selecting a replacement for the man who represented them in the U.S. Senate for nearly half a century.
Four Democrats, from political insiders to newcomers, and two Republicans were competing in their party primaries for the opportunity to fill the seat held by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who died of brain cancer in August at age 77, since 1962. The winners will face off in a Jan. 19 general election.
Kennedy's widow, Vicki, called each of the Democratic candidates early Tuesday to wish them well, an aide said. His family has been careful not to endorse any one candidate.
Because the Massachusetts electorate is heavily Democratic, the winner of today's Democratic primary is considered to be the substantial favorite in the general election set for January 2010.
Below, take a look at the candidates and vote on who you'd like to fill Kennedy's seat.
Attorney General Martha Coakley, who led in preprimary public opinion polls, started her day by voting at a school near her Medford home. U.S Rep. Michael Capuano voted at the Somerville Department of Public Works garage. City Year co-founder Alan Khazei voted in Brookline, and Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca voted at a Weston school.
State Sen. Scott Brown, the leading Republican candidate, voted in his hometown of Wrentham, then hit the phones to call supporters. The other Republican in the race, Jack E. Robinson, voted by absentee ballot two weeks ago and started his day by greeting commuters at North and South stations in Boston, an aide said.
Voters were doing something they had not done in Massachusetts since 1984: vote in a U.S. Senate race with no incumbent.
Not since Paul Tsongas decided to step down after a cancer diagnosis have they had the chance to fill a Senate seat with a newcomer. John Kerry, who went on to be the Democratic Party's 2004 presidential nominee, won that race and every re-election since.
Kennedy's seat has been held on an interim basis by Paul G. Kirk Jr., a Kennedy friend and the former Democratic National Committee chairman. He will step down when his replacement is sworn in.
The campaign was notable for its lack of drama.
"I think the candidates have acquitted themselves well," said Jeffrey Berry, a political science professor at Tufts University. "In a very short period of time, they have offered intelligent and reasoned campaign stands, and they've competed vigorously."
Coakley, 56, targeted women and abortion rights supporters. Her last-minute pitch included prerecorded robocalls from former President Bill Clinton, who said, "You can trust her to get results in the Senate just as she has as your attorney general."
Brown, 50, is an attorney, lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard and triathlete who has carved out a decidedly more conservative record. While Coakley opposes sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, Brown supports President Barack Obama's buildup. He also gained some notoriety as the father of an "American Idol" contestant and for his nude centerfold in Cosmo when he was in college.
Capuano, 57, is a six-term congressman who targeted the relatively small crowd of party loyalists by highlighting his votes against the USA Patriot Act and the war in Iraq.
Khazei, 48, is a political newcomer who started the youth activism program City Year and other civic engagement programs.
Pagliuca, 54, also is a first-time political candidate. He made a fortune estimated at $400 million by working at the private equity and venture capital firms that enriched 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
The 49-year-old Robinson has become a perennial candidate after unsuccessful Senate, House and secretary of state campaigns.
A Boston Globe survey last month found Coakley leading Capuano 43 percent to 22 percent among likely voters, but it also found that only about a quarter of respondents said they had definitely settled on a candidate. Another quarter said they were leaning toward a candidate, while half described themselves as uncertain.
A Suffolk University poll last month found Brown leading Robinson 45 percent to 7 percent, with 47 percent undecided.