Poll gives Republican Mark Crockett slight lead in Salt Lake County mayor race

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 2 2012 6:00 p.m. MDT

Salt Lake County mayoral candidates Mark Crockett, left, and Ben McAdams answer a few questions Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, at the KCPW radio studios. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Salt Lake County mayoral candidates Mark Crockett, left, and Ben McAdams answer a few questions Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, at the KCPW radio studios. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Republican Mark Crockett has a slight lead over Democrat Ben McAdams in the race for Salt Lake County mayor, with roughly one-fifth of voters yet to make up their minds, a Deseret News/KSL poll shows.

The latest poll of the Salt Lake County mayoral race released Tuesday puts Crockett ahead by 3 points, with 40 percent of voters surveyed saying they support the Republican compared with 37 percent for McAdams.

The poll, conducted Sept. 26-29 by Dan Jones & Associates, also revealed a solid block of undecided voters, with 21 percent of Salt Lake County voters surveyed saying they aren't sure which way they will cast their ballot.

The poll has a margin error of plus or minus 5 percent.

Pollster Dan Jones said the race is too close to call headed into the home stretch.

With only 35 days remaining before Election Day, Jones said the Salt Lake County mayoral race is being forgotten in the hype surrounding the presidential election and the hotly contested race in Utah's 4th Congressional District.

According to the poll, 37 percent of respondents said they had never heard of Crockett, and 35 percent said they had never heard of McAdams.

Jones said he expects the number of undecided voters will drop rapidly in the next two weeks, as voters get in line behind either Crockett or McAdams. Others, he said, won't choose until the last moment.

"This might be one race where people won't make up their minds, about 5 percent of them, until they get in the booth," he said.

Jones called both candidates capable and impressive. Crockett, he said, may see a boost from voters turning out for the presidential election. With a large portion of the state standing behind Republican candidate Mitt Romney, any straight-ticket voters will lend support to Crockett.

According to the poll, 30 percent of respondents said it is very likely they will vote straight ticket, while 34 percent said it is very unlikely.

The Republican's campaign has been outspent by McAdams throughout the race, but Crockett said the extra cash doesn't appear to be a barrier.

"Our opponent has spent over $500,000 so far, and it doesn't seem to be changing the numbers," he said.

Crockett pointed out that with no incumbent in the race, the county is "getting acquainted with both of us."

McAdams has made an impressive showing in "on the ground" campaigning through yard signs, appearances and voter registration, Jones said. Strong "get out the vote" efforts could swing the election for the Democrat, he said.

McAdams said he will continue those efforts throughout the remainder of the campaign.

"Every day we're out on doorsteps and meeting voters in their home and trying to convey the message of bipartisanship in government," he said.

McAdams said his message of cooperation in government is resonating with voters, and he hopes he will make headway with the undecided crowd.

The two hopefuls in the race for county mayor made another debate appearance Tuesday prior to the poll's release.

The pair spoke to a full house at the Little America Hotel during the Salt Lake City Rotary Club luncheon, echoing their previous performances debating county services, job creation, transportation, community growth, parks and recreation.

Safia Keller, a Rotary member and Salt Lake City resident, said both candidates resonated with her, though she was drawn in by McAdams' friendly demeanor. Keller said she tends to lean to the left but has voted across party lines in several races.

Before the debate, Keller said she knew nothing of the candidates beyond what she had read on McAdams' billboards.

Keller said she identified strongly with Crockett's comments on the need for human services in the county. On the other hand, she said she found Crockett's gruff manner off-putting. 

"I don't like it, especially when people are debating, when they're disrespectful or rude," she said. "I just don't think there's a place for that."

Bill Larson, another undecided voter who said he tends to vote Republican, attributed Crockett's tough demeanor to his experience as a businessman.

"Crockett is a lot more corporate," Larson said. "Sometimes he was slightly strong and overbearing, to me, which is all right. That's how that type of men are."

Larson said that prior to the debate he knew nothing about the candidates. He said he will be watching the candidates in hopes of discerning which man is most likely to care for the people of Salt Lake County without overspending.

"My reaction to these two is they both agree on the fundamental need for a parks, services, education," he said. "Out of that, we're going to see a really different approach to getting the job done."

Keller said she agreed with McAdams' stance on increasing mass transit options.

Larson also referenced Crockett's hesitancy and McAdams' support toward expanding mass transit, but said he was left with concerns.

"I didn't hear enough about how they are going to bring together entities in this valley to protect what land is left and yet still incorporate the mass transit needs," Larson said.

In the debate, both McAdams and Crockett expressed hesitation toward the future Utah Performing Arts Center, saying existing theater and arts centers in the city must be protected as the Broadway-style theater makes its debut. Keller said she disagreed with both candidates.

"I think it will lift the performing arts as a whole," she said. "I think it will help the symphony and the opera."

Both Keller and Larson said they will be watching the candidates closely to make a decision before Election Day.

E-mail: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @McKenzieRomero

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