Third District Rep. Chris Cannon holds a huge lead over his GOP challenger, Jeremy Friedbaum, as Tuesday's primary election approaches, a new Deseret News poll shows.
Republican incumbents, in general, did well in the survey. However, voter turnout will be all-important in these summertime contests, when most people aren't thinking much about politics.Even candidates who are behind in the poll could win if their supporters vote in high numbers while most citizens stay home.
Friedbaum, a conservative who predicted a "miracle" would happen in the May state GOP convention - and some say it did when Friedbaum barely got into a primary against Cannon - may need another such act Tuesday.
The poll, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, finds Cannon leads Fried-baum among registered voters 59 percent to 14 percent. Five percent said they wouldn't vote Tuesday and 27 percent were undecided.
There's no Democratic candidate in the 3rd District - the first time in the state's history that a U.S. House race in Utah doesn't have a candidate from both major political parties.
Friedbaum, a very religious man who often quotes the Bible and Book of Mormon, refused to accept any political contributions and has run a limited primary campaign.
Not only does Cannon lead Friedbaum by a huge 45 percentage point margin in the GOP primary contest, but when Jones matched first Cannon, then Friedbaum, in a general election scenario against Libertarian Kitty Burton and Will Christensen of the Independent American Party, Cannon crushes those challengers (with 60 percent support) while Friedbaum bumps along with only 27 percent support.
Any registered voter can vote in Tuesday's primary. Utah has an open primary system and citizens don't register by party nor vote by party in the primary.
There are no Democratic Party primaries in any congressional race or in county or legislative races in Utah, Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties, the state's four largest counties.
The newspaper's wide-ranging poll also compared other candidates on Tuesday's ballot.
In Salt Lake County, Commissioner Mary Callaghan holds a two-to-one lead over GOP challenger Wendy Smith. (See chart). Among those who said they are Republicans, Callaghan leads Smith 44 percent to 19 percent, found Jones.
Jones also matched those two individually against Democrat Karen Crompton in that Commission Seat A race and found that both Callaghan and Smith are favored over Crompton. However, Callaghan holds a 23 percentage point lead over Crompton, Smith only a 9 percentage point lead.
In the other County Commission race Tuesday - Commission Seat B - former Salt Lake City commissioner Steve Harmsen leads fellow Republican Mark Shurtleff by 10 percentage points. Among Republican voters Harmsen leads Shurtleff 35 percent to 17 percent.
But Jones points out that there is a large undecided bloc in that race - 43 percent of all voters - and the vote Tuesday could go to either man. Both Shurtleff and Harmsen hold leads over Democrat Mike Reberg this early in the general election race, Jones found.
In the Salt Lake County District Attorney's race, incumbent Neal Gunnarson holds a 12 percentage point lead over assistant county attorney Mark Griffin. Among just those who said they're Republicans, Gunnarson leads Griffin 46 percent to 24 percent.
The Democrat in that race is former county attorney Dave Yocum. And in a head-to-head match-up in that race's general election possibilities, the lead switches around. Among all voters, Gunnarson leads Yocum by 13 percentage points, but Yocum leads Griffin by 6 points.
Again, Jones warns that this early in the general election races things could certain change and there is a large number of undecided voters.
In fact, Jones says he found a number of the people polled were confused that only Republican candidates were on the ballot Tuesday in Salt Lake, Utah and Davis counties.
"One woman said she thought it unfair - that she could only vote for Republicans," said Jones.
Of course, there are no Democratic primaries in those counties because either only one Democrat filed or the weaker of Democratic candidates in a race were eliminated in county and/or state Democratic conventions.
In Utah County, the question of whether two incumbent county officers will be eliminated by a pair of conservative GOP challengers remains unanswered.
Both incumbent Commissioner David Gardner and county Sheriff David Bateman hold leads over their challengers, Hans Verlan Andersen and Richard Mack, respectively.
Bateman holds a pretty good lead over Mack - 28 percentage points. Gardner only leads Andersen by 10 percentage points. Among those who said they are Republicans, Gardner and Andersen are neck-and-neck. Bateman does well among GOP voters, found Jones - he leads Mack among party loyalists 52 percent to 14 percent.
Voter turnout will definitely make the difference in the commission race, and could even determine the sheriff's race, as well, warns Jones, who has polled in Utah for more than 25 years.
The poll shows only 16 percent of registered voters said they were "very likely" to vote Tuesday. But Jones doesn't think it will end up even at that low number.
"Overall, I expect a turnout of between 8 percent and 10 percent," said Jones, a poor voter turnout by Utah standards.
And those who do turn out will probably be conservative GOP voters, Jones also found - a plus for candidates like Andersen and Mack who have clearly tied themselves to the right wing of the Republican Party.
When asked on a scale of 1 to 10 how likely they were to vote - with 10 being very likely to vote - Jones found that 27 percent of those who said they are "very conservative" politically would vote Tuesday. Only 9 percent of the "somewhat conservatives" and 14 percent of the "moderates" were very likely to vote, Jones found.
In very Republican Utah County, both Bateman and Mack hold impressive leads over the Democrat running for sheriff, George Alexander. And both Gardner and Andersen hold good leads over the Democrat in the Commission Seat B race, Nancy Jane Woodside.
Finally, in the Davis County GOP sheriff's primary, Sheriff Rob Davis leads Republican challenger Bud Cox by 10 percentage points. But a third of the registered voters were still undecided and the poll, in that county, has a margin of error of plus or minus 8 percent. So that race is a tossup. Among just Republican voters, Davis' lead shrinks to just 37 percent to 31 percent for his opponent.
In the Davis County Commission Seat B race, GOP Commissioner Carol Page holds a commanding 40 percentage point lead over Republican challenger Michael Cragun, with a fourth of the registered voters undecided. Among GOP voters, Page leads Cragun 69 percent to 17 percent, found Jones.
Like Utah County, Davis County is very Republican. And both Page and Cragun hold healthy leads over the Democrat in the Commission Seat B race, Todd Weber, the poll shows.
Deseret News poll
If the primary election were held today, for whom would you vote?
3rd CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Chris Cannon (R) 59%
Jeremy Friedbaum (R) 14%
Don't know 27%
3rd District sample size: 402. Margin of error of +-5.0 percent.
SALT LAKE COUNTY
Commission Seat A
Mary Callaghan (R) 40%
Wendy Smith (R) 21%
Don't know 39%
Commission Seat B
Steve Harmsen (R) 31%
Mark Shurtleff (R) 21%
Don't know 48%
Neal Gunnarson (R) 40%
Mark Griffin (R) 28%
Don't know 32%
S.L. County sample size: 617. Margin of error of +-4.0 percent.
David Gardner (R) 35%
Hans Verlan Andersen (R) 25%
Don't know 40%
David Bateman (R) 47%
Richard Mack (R) 19%
Don't know 34%
Utah County sample size: 184. Margin of error of +-7.0 percent.
Carol Page (R) 57%
Michael Cragun (R) 17%
Don't know 26%
Rob Davis (R) 39%
Bud Cox (R) 29%
Don't know 33%
Davis County sample size: 101. Margin of error of +-8.0 percent.
Poll of registered voters conducted June 13-19, 1998 by Dan Jones & Associates, an independent polling firm whose clients include other organizations and sometimes political parties and candidates. Among his clients are Robert Bennett, Merrill Cook and the Utah Republican Party.
Copyright 1998 Deseret News.