UPDATE: Turnout picking up around noon on Mississippi Coast

It appears turnout was lower than the June 3 Primary in the opening hours of the Republican runoff for U.S. Senate.

Turnout was particularly low in predominantly black communities in Gulfport. Sen. Thad Cochran had courted black Democrats to vote for him in the runoff.

But Harrison County Circuit Clerk Gayle Parker shortly before noon said: "It looks good. It's been steady."

There were mixed reports out of Jackson County, one of the main battlegrounds that went for state Sen. Chris McDaniel in the opening round. Both candidates spent a lot of time there in the three weeks since the Primary.

"My sense is that it is higher than June 3," said Jerry St. Pe, a Cochran supporter and former president of Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula. "Clearly there is significantly increased in the awareness of the importance of the election."

Cochran's supporters say many voters didn't expect Cochran to have such a stiff challenge from McDaniel.

Amanda Capers, Jackson County chairwoman for McDaniel, said she fears all the mudslinging has kept some voters away.

"We're doing good but it is kind of light," she said. She said that could change this afternoon when another shift of workers gets off at Ingalls, Chevron and the hospitals.

"Last time," she said. "It was very steady between 5 and 7 up at East Central where I was."

Parker also said she had heard from people in Jackson County who said the turnout there was good.