Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, both Republicans, hold big leads in their respective re-election races this year, a new poll shows.
Huntsman, who has said he will serve only two terms as governor, has the support of 77 percent of registered voters, according to a survey conducted for the Deseret News and KSL-TV.
Shurtleff, a former Salt Lake County commissioner seeking a third, four-year term as Utah's chief law enforcement officer, has 65 percent support, pollster Dan Jones & Associates found in the survey, finished last week.
Huntsman and Shurtleff don't have a GOP primary this year but face opposition in November's general election.
Huntsman is being challenged by local business/government consultant Bob Springmeyer, a Democrat, and former computer store owner Dell "Superdell" Schanze, a Libertarian.
Shurtleff faces Democrat Jean Welch Hill and W. Andrew McCullough, a Libertarian Party member who has run for AG before.
In the governor's race, where three-quarters of voters pick Huntsman, Springmeyer gets 13 percent of the vote and Schanze gets 1 percent. Only 8 percent were undecided, Jones found. (Jones, an independent pollster, has also done work for Huntsman this year.)
Shurtleff is slightly less popular. He would get two-thirds of the vote if the election were held today, while Hill would 17 percent and McCullough 3 percent. Thirteen percent were undecided.
Jones polled 604 registered voters statewide, with a margin of error plus or minus 4 percent.
Speaking to the newspaper after his monthly news conference last week, Huntsman said he is "obviously very heartened by the numbers" in the newspaper's poll. But he said he takes nothing for granted.
"We're just going to keep doing what we think is in the best long-term interest of our state and its citizens and let the chips fall where they may," the governor said.
Springmeyer said he was encouraged by his showing, even at 13 percent.
"That looks great," he said. "We have some momentum, we're moving up." He said his "big job" is getting people to know him and he doesn't think there will be major movement in the polls until September. "Frankly, I expect to win this thing. It will be a great year for Democrats" in Utah.
"There is a lot of anger with the state Legislature. A lot of disappointment that the governor hasn't stepped up and represented the state on things like vouchers." As November nears, "you will really see our showing" among the people, Springmeyer said.
Huntsman said he won't take into account his high poll numbers (he also has a high job-approval rating) in deciding what issues to take on as governor. One of those issues is Huntsman's belief that Utah's private club laws should be changed so that drinkers don't have to fill out applications and pay membership fees.
"I really don't view the world in terms of political capital," Huntsman said. "People either like what you're doing or they don't." If they like it, "I'll assume we'll get their vote again. If not, it'll go to someone else."
The private-school voucher issue will likely be part of both the governor's and attorney general's races.
Shurtleff "fired" Hill as an assistant attorney general advising the Utah State Office of Education last year after she opposed his legal interpretation that the 2007 voucher bill had to be implemented. Hill continued giving legal advice to the office, which was technically her boss, and the state board of education. Ultimately, her side won the voucher case before the Utah Supreme Court. She remains a state education office attorney.
Utahns voted down the voucher bill last November, much to the chagrin of conservative GOP legislators who passed it.
Huntsman ran in 2004 on a platform of giving parents of children who attend private schools a tax break and he signed the voucher bill into law. But he declined to campaign heavily in favor of the November voucher referendum, saying citizens should have their say at the ballot box.
Jones' new poll finds that 90 percent of Republicans favor Huntsman. But the governor also gets the votes of 52 percent of the Democrats and 69 percent of the political independents.
Springmeyer says he expects all of the Democrats to come home to his campaign, and he'll get a lot of independent votes as well. "Huntsman can't win this thing with only Republican voters," Springmeyer told the Salt Lake County Democratic Convention last month.The poll shows that Shurtleff gets 82 percent of the GOP vote, 34 percent of the Democratic vote and 54 percent of the independent voters.
Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche