Utah Attorney General David Wilkinson holds leads over both Democrats who are challenging him this year, a new Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows. But so many voters are undecided about the attorney general's race that it is by no means over yet.Pollster Dan Jones & Associates also matched the two Democrats, former Salt Lake County Attorney R. Paul Van Dam and local attorney Zane Gill, against each other.
In that contest, Van Dam holds a large lead over Gill, both among all voters and Democratic voters alone, Jones found.
If the election were held today between Wilkinson and Van Dam, Wilkinson would get 35 percent of the vote, Van Dam would get 30 percent, 1 percent would vote for someone else and 33 percent don't know who they'd vote for.
Wilkinson does better against Gill: Wilkinson 40 percent, Gill 23 percent, 1 percent other and 36 percent don't know.
In the match-up between Van Dam and Gill, Van Dam holds a commanding 37-9 percent lead among all voters. Two percent said they would vote for some other candidate in the Democratic primary and 36 percent didn't know who they would vote for.
Among Democratic voters, Jones found Van Dam gets 45 percent of the vote, Gill receives 11 percent and 43 percent don't know.
Van Dam and Gill face each other in the June 24-25 state Democratic Convention. If either gets 70
percent of the delegate vote, he is automatically the nominee. If one can't get 70 percent of the vote, the two face each other in a Sept. 13 primary election. Any registered voter can vote in the Democratic primary.
"I'm ahead," said Wilkinson about the poll. "Not comfortably ahead, but ahead. This is a harried year for incumbents. We have to get out and hustle and I'll do that."
Wilkinson said he, state Auditor Tom Allen and state Treasurer Ed Alter, all Republicans, have been harmed by Gov. Norm Bangerter's problems with the public. "Half of the voters believe the attorney general, auditor and treasurer are somehow part of his administration," Wilkinson said. "We are independently elected, professional people and, really, have no connection to him at all - except that we are all Republicans."
Bangerter trails his Democratic opponent Ted Wilson 2-1 in the polls and some blame the governor for the unpopular 1987 tax increase.
Gill interprets the latest poll to mean that a Democrat will defeat Wilkinson. "I see a Democrat beating him this year," he said.
On his showing against Van Dam, Gill said, "The race is young and the difference is name identification. As issues come into focus, it will become clear that a Democrat is better suited to run the state's legal affairs, and it will become clear to Democratic and independent voters that today's problems require today's experience." Gill is referring to Van Dam's mid-1970s tenure in the county attorney's office.
Van Dam said he has closed 5 points on Wilkinson in the last several months "with no visible campaigning." "I believe I'm the clear Democratic candidate and I'm standing pretty well this early in the race," he added.