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Herbertís lead is widening as the election draws near

Republicans are ahead in the majority of races majority of races

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 1 2015 2:34 p.m. MDT

GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, left, speaks during a debate with Democratic challenger Salt Lake Mayor Peter Corroon outside of the Channel 2 News Studios in Salt Lake City last month. Herbert's lead continues to widen over Corroon, according to a new Deseret News/KSL-TV poll. (Mike Terry, Deseret News) GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, left, speaks during a debate with Democratic challenger Salt Lake Mayor Peter Corroon outside of the Channel 2 News Studios in Salt Lake City last month. Herbert's lead continues to widen over Corroon, according to a new Deseret News/KSL-TV poll. (Mike Terry, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — GOP Gov. Gary Herbert's lead continues to widen over his Democratic challenger, Salt Lake Mayor Peter Corroon, in next Tuesday's special gubernatorial election, according to a new Deseret News/KSL-TV poll.

The poll released Friday also found Republicans are ahead in races for the U.S. Senate and two of the state's three congressional districts.

And in the 2nd District, Republican Morgan Philpot is now within 12 points of Utah's only Democratic member of Congress, Rep. Jim Matheson.

Still, pollster Randy Shumway said Matheson is on track to be one of the few incumbent Democrats re-elected nationwide in a mid-term election expected to turn over Congress to the GOP.

"Twelve points is a lot to make up," said Shumway, owner of Dan Jones & Associates, which also does polling for Herbert. Just two weeks ago, Philpot trailed Matheson by 26 points.

"For Jim Matheson, he's a congressman in a district that is Republican two-to-one almost, in an atmosphere that is very anti-incumbent, very anti-Democrat," Shumway said. "I actually think that's a positive situation."

Fifty-one percent of the 456 active voters surveyed in the 2nd District back Matheson and 39 percent, Philpot. The poll was conducted Monday through Thursday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percent.

Philpot said he can close the gap.

"I think ultimately we're going to see a big surprise on Tuesday night," Philpot said. "You don't attack like he's attacking unless you're afraid of something."

Matheson said he's pleased with the poll results. "But in this election environment I take everything very seriously," he said. "And I'm going to be very aggressive right up to Election Day."

Herbert's campaign manager, Joseph Demma, said the governor will continue to campaign hard through next Tuesday, too.

Demma called the governor's now 34-point lead over Corroon, up from 25 points two weeks ago, "a very strong, encouraging number" that shows voters are responding to the campaign's positive message.

Corroon has seen his poll numbers drop since he started airing negative ads highlighting the controversy over whether campaign contributions to Herbert influenced the award of state contracts.

"There are no qualms about it," said Corroon spokeswoman Stella Thurkill. "We have and are running a very aggressive, hard-hitting campaign. And we raised some very important issues."

Thurkill said the Corroon campaign isn't slowing down, but is now airing TV commercials featuring Corroon and his GOP running mate, Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful. "We're ending on a very positive note," Thurkill said.

Sixty-three percent of the 1,206 active voters polled statewide said they'd vote for Herbert, compared to 29 percent for Corroon. The statewide poll, also conducted Monday through Thursday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

Two weeks ago, Herbert was at 58 percent and Corroon, 33 percent.

In the U.S. Senate race, Republican Mike Lee now has a 27-point lead over Democrat Sam Granato. Two weeks ago, Lee was 22 points ahead of Granato.

"It's great news," Lee said during a break from campaigning in Moab. "It shows my message continues to resonate as we travel throughout the state."

Granato spokeswoman Marla Kennedy said she did not believe the poll numbers were a true reflection of the race. "We're very confident this is a much, much closer race than the polls would indicate," she said.

Fifty-seven percent of the Utahns polled statewide said they wanted Lee and 30 percent, Granato. Two weeks ago, Lee was at 53 percent and Lee, 31 percent.

In the 1st District congressional race, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is 45 points in front of Democrat Morgan Bowen.

And in the 3rd District congressional race, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is even further ahead of Republican-turned-Democrat Karen Hyer, with a 51-point lead.

e-mail: lisa@desnews.com

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company