Republican Attorney General David Wilkinson's lead in the polls has narrowed slightly since Democrats avoided a primary runoff and nominated Paul Van Dam at their party convention to oppose him.
A Deseret News/KSL poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates shows 42 percent of those polled favor two-term incumbent Wilkinson while 37 percent favor former Salt Lake County Attorney Van Dam.Twenty percent of those polled were still undecided, with 1 percent saying they would vote for "other." The poll was taken on June 28 and 29 and is considered accurate within plus or minus 4 percent.
The gap between Wilkinson and a Democratic challenger has shrunk from 10 percentage points to 5 since last month, when a Deseret News/KSL poll showed Wilkinson favored by 40 percent of those polled and Van Dam, by 30 percent.
Zane Gill, the candidate Van Dam defeated at the Democratic Party convention last month by winning 75 percent of the delegate's votes, had trailed Wilkinson by 20 percentage points in last month's poll.
In the current poll, the majority of respondents who considered themselves either somewhat or very conservative favored Wilkinson, while Van Dam garnered most of the support of those who labeled themselves somewhat or very liberal.
But of those respondents who chose moderate to describe their political ideology, 45 percent favored Van Dam and 34 percent, Wilkinson.
Wilkinson said that the early polls have reflected the unpopularity of Republican Gov. Norm Bangerter and the public's perception that his office is part of the governor's administration instead of an independently elected position.
But Van Dam attributed at least part of his strong showing against an incumbent to the public's "negative reaction" to Wilkinson's job performance. He said his own record of public service will boost him further in the polls once he begins campaigning.
State Treasurer Edward T. Alter is still well behind his opponent, longtime Salt Lake County Treasurer Arthur L. Monson, although he has gained nine percentage points while Monson has lost three.
The current poll shows that only 27 percent of respondents favor Republican Alter, while 41 percent favor Democrat Monson.
"I've said all along that the numbers at this stage represent name recognition. Monson has a good Utah name," Alter said, adding he expects a closer race once he begins campaigning and voters become familiar with his own name.
Monson said his voter recognition comes from 14 years as the country treasurer. "It's a reflection of the job I've done in the office," he said.
State Auditor Tom L. Allen is an incumbent who continues to remain ahead of his Democratic opponent in the poll. Republican Allen had faced South Salt Lake Mayor Jim Davis, until Davis withdrew from the race to become gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson's running mate. Davis was replaced at the state Democratic convention with Bountiful certified public accountant Arthur Miller.
Most of those questioned, 47 percent, said they didn't know which candidate they would chose on election day. Twenty-eight percent said they had decided on Allen and 25 percent, on Miller.
Allen, who's seeking his second term, said that Bangerter's own close race for re-election has taken away much of the advantage of being an incumbent. But he said once the campaign gets under way, voters will focus on the differences between him and Miller.
Miller, however, said voters will want to give their choice for governor a treasurer from his own party. He said voters will shy away from incumbents because of problems in the past administration.
If the election for attorney general were held today and the candidates were David Wilkinson, Republican, and Paul Van Dam, Democrat, for whom would you vote?
Wilkinson 42 percent
Van Dam 37 percent
Other 1 percent
Don't know 20 percent
If the election for state auditor were held today and the candidates were Tom Allen, Republican, and Arthur Miller, Democrat, for whom would you vote?
Allen 28 percent
Miller 25 percent
Don't know 47 percent
If the election for state treasurer were held today and the candidates were Edward Alter, Republican, and Arthur Monson, Democrat, for whom would you vote?
Alter 27 percent
Monson 41 percent
Don't know 32 percent
Sample size: 604; margin of error plus or minus 4 percent