Democrat Gunn McKay has closed in on Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, in his 1st Congressional District race, picking up 6 points in a month, the latest Dan Jones & Associates poll shows.
Meanwhile, 2nd District Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, continues to hold an impressive lead over GOP challenger Richard Snelgrove - Owens gets 57 percent of the vote; Snelgrove gets 27 percent; Libertarian Michael Lee gets 2 percent; and 13 percent are undecided,.And in the 3rd District, Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, maintains an even greater lead over either of the two Democrats vying to challenge him, Jones found in surveys conducted for the Deseret News and KSL-TV.
Nielson leads Democrat Robert Stringham 59-20 percent, with American Party candidate Dean Christensen getting 5 percent and 16 percent undecided. Nielson leads Democrat Craig Oliver 61-16 percent, with Chris-tensen getting 7 percent and 16 percent undecided.
Oliver and Stringham will face each other in a Sept. 13 primary for the 3rd District nomination. In their intra-party contest, Jones found a dead heat and a huge undecided electorate: 18 percent of those questioned favor Stringham, 17 percent Oliver and 63 percent don't know yet who they'd vote for in the Democratic primary.
In the 1st District, McKay gets 43 percent of the vote, Hansen 48 percent and 8 percent are undecided.
Just a month ago, Jones found that McKay got only 40 percent of the vote and Hansen got 51 percent. The change, considered dramatic in light of how close these two men have run in past elections, is laid at the feet of radio advertisements McKay ran the past month criticizing Hansen.
"No one knew McKay was out there," said Jones. "The ads let them know that McKay is in the race. I see that as the difference."
Jones polled 200 people in the 2nd and 3rd congressional districts. Because the 1st District race is closer, Jones polled 400 people there to get a more accurate reading.
Bonnie Stephens, campaign manager for Hansen, said they expected the race to close up a bit. "We knew the polls would fluctuate, because they have in past races. Both men are very well-known; both are respected by the public."
McKay was the 1st District representative from 1970 to 1980, when Hansen unseated him. McKay challenged Hansen in 1986 and lost by only 3 percentage points.
The 1st District race has turned bitter. McKay ran a radio advertisement last month that said Hansen didn't care enough about the elderly to attend a committee meeting and vote on an important health care bill.
Hansen countered with radio ads that said McKay was running a negative campaign to hide his own 10-year congressional record.
"We expect more negative campaign ads (from McKay)," Stephens said, especially considering that the ads may have led to McKay's 6-point increase in the polls. "We won't start any negative advertisements, but we will respond to them accordingly."
David Dixon, McKay's campaign press secretary, said: "We're pleased with the new poll. We believed all along that the race was this close, will remain close up until the last two weeks of the campaign." Dixon doubts that McKay's radio ads moved McKay up in the polls.
If the election in the 1st Congressional District were held today and the candidates were Jim Hansen, Republican, and Gunn McKay, Democrat,
for whom would you vote?
Hansen 48 percent
McKay 43 percent
Don't know 8 percent
If the election in the 2nd Congressional District were held today and the candidates were Wayne Owens, Democrat; Richard Snelgrove, Republican; and Michael Lee, Libertarian; for whom would you vote?
Owens 57 percent
Snelgrove 27 percent
Lee 2 percent
Don't know 13 percent
If the election in the 3rd Congressional District were held today and the candidates were Howard Nielson, Republican; Robert Stringham, Democrat; and Dean Christensen, American Party; for whom would you vote?
Nielson 59 percent
Stringham 20 percent
Christensen 5 percent
Don't know 16 percent
If the election in the 3rd Congressional District were held today and the candidates were Howard Nielson, Republican; Craig Oliver, Democrat; and Dean Christensen, American Party; for whom would you vote?
Nielson 61 percent
Oliver 16 percent
Christensen 7 percent
Don't know 16 percent
If the Democratic primary election in the 3rd Congressional District were held today and the candidates were Craig Oliver and Robert Stringham, for whom would you vote?
Oliver 17 percent
Stringham 18 percent
Other 2 percent
Don't know 63 percent
Sample size: 400 1st District; margin of error +/- 5 percent
200 2nd and 3rd Districts; margin of error +/- 6 percent