Paul Van Dam leads Zane Gill in their fight to be the Democratic nominee for Utah attorney general, a new Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows, but it's early in the race and more challengers may jump into the Democratic race before the April 15 filing deadline.
Van Dam leads Gill 33-12 percent, found pollster Dan Jones & Associates. But a majority of voters, 53 percent, don't know who they'd vote for in that Democratic primary race.Utah has an open primary system and anyone can vote in primary elections. Among Democrats only, Van Dam leads Gill 41-14 percent, with 45 percent undecided.
Van Dam was Salt Lake County attorney in the mid-1970s. He attributes part of his early success to "people remembering who I am."
Gill said, "Frankly, I'd prefer that the numbers were the other way around. The (poll) shows the value of name identification, even ancient name identification."
But Gill said the size of the undecided shows him it is still an open race. Such a Van Dam lead "is not unpredicted; we knew this could be the case and we have a plan to deal with it," Gill said.
The high undecideds also don't surprise Van Dam. "The attorney general's race is basically not a high-profile race. I'm encouraged by the poll. After all, I've been out of public life for 12 years. My work now has to be with the (Democratic state) delegates. And that type of work doesn't show up in these kinds of polls," Van Dam said.
Democratic Party Chairman Randy Horiuchi believes one or two more Democrats may get into the attorney general's race. But Van Dam said he has talked to those Horiuchi is mentioning and they've told Van Dam they probably won't enter.
"I don't take Zane lightly. I don't take the race lightly. I want this job, and I'm working to get it," Van Dam said.
Gill said he and his supporters have plans to "boost my name identification and now we have to get on with it."
Both men want the opportunity to challenge Attorney General David Wilkinson, a Republican. Wilkinson, however, may also find himself with an intraparty fight on his hands. Public Safety Commissioner John T. Nielsen, a Republican, is considering challenging Wilkinson.