Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and GOP Attorney General Mark Shurtleff still hold commanding leads in their re-election efforts, a new Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows.
Completed Thursday night, the new survey of 601 registered voters by Dan Jones & Associates finds that Huntsman leads Democrat Bob Springmeyer 77-13 percent.
Shurtleff, who seeks a third, four-year term as Utah's chief law enforcement officer, leads Democrat Jean Welch Hill, 61-16 percent.
The survey, taken Sept. 8-11, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. Jones, an independent pollster, has also done polling for Huntsman this year.
The latest head-to-head results mirror a Jones poll taken for the newspaper and TV station in late June. And so it is clear that neither Springmeyer nor Hill have made much headway over the summer.
"This shows that Utahns feel very good about the governor and the job he is doing," said Greg Hartley, Huntsman's campaign manager.
"We're taking nothing for granted. We will run a strong campaign, reminding people that he has done what he'd said he'd do when he ran in 2004," said Hartley.
Springmeyer, who owns a private government planning/consulting firm, said: "I'm not worried at all" about the new numbers. "They reflect the fact that we haven't started our media campaign yet. We are focusing on the last three weeks of the campaign" for that, he added.
"I'm seeing in this poll and others that Utahns don't really know me." And that media campaign will help with that, he said. "In my retail campaigning, like meeting people face-to-face at the Avenues Street Fair of several weeks ago, people know there is a presidential election this year. But when I tell them that there is also a gubernatorial and Salt Lake County mayor's race, they say "Oh? I didn't know that.""
As voters become more educated not only to the governor's race, but to Springmeyer himself, "I fully expect those numbers to change as we get close to the election," this year on Nov. 4.
Still, Springmeyer has his work cut out for him. He gets only 33 percent support from his own Democrats; Huntsman has 58 percent support from the minority party, Jones found. And Huntsman gets 77 percent support from political independents, a critical voting bloc for any Democrat who hopes to win a statewide election in Utah.
This past week Hill criticized Shurtleff for what she believes is questionable campaign fund raising by the attorney general; pointing out he has spent campaign funds on himself and his family. Shurtleff has done nothing illegal, Utah's campaign finance laws are some of the most lax in the nation, and he defended his fund raising and spending.
But Hill says if a private attorney acted in his personal business dealings like Shurtleff has in his campaign fund raising and spending, there could be real questions about ethical practices before the Utah State Bar.
Still, the latest poll shows that Huntsman and Shurtleff, who have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last few years, have little to fear now from Springmeyer and Hill, whose campaigns are clearly underfunded compared to the GOP incumbents.
Democrats hope to make inroads in Salt Lake County this year. Democratic Mayor Peter Corroon is popular, as is U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, whose 2nd District takes in the eastside of the county. (See accompanying poll story on Utah's congressional contests.)In 2004, Huntsman's first election, he actually lost Salt Lake County to Democrat Scott Matheson Jr. But the new poll finds that Huntsman leads Springmeyer 68-19 percent in the county, which makes up about 40 percent of Utah's population.
E-mail: [email protected]