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Dead Heat 

Two polls show a tight race for governor

Two polls released since last Tuesday's primary election show a competitive race for governor between Republican Doug Ducey and Democrat Fred DuVal.

Both the left-leaning Public Policy Polling and the right leaning Rasmussen Reports had the race as a dead heat.

The surveys were taken just as Ducey, the former Cold Stone Creamery CEO who served as Arizona's treasurer for the last four years, was celebrating his win in last week's GOP gubernatorial primary, where he captured 36 percent of the vote in a six-way primary. He was well ahead of second-place finisher Scott Smith, the former Mesa mayor who nabbed 22 percent of the vote, and third-place finisher Christine Jones, who ended up with 16 percent of the vote. (The rest of the field: Secretary of State Ken Bennett won 12 percent, disbarred attorney Andrew Thomas got roughly 8 percent and former California Congressman Frank Riggs got about 4 percent.)

DuVal, who did not face a primary challenge, was up on TV airwaves on the day after the primary with an ad featuring Republican Grant Woods, a former Arizona attorney general who chaired Gov. Jan Brewer's 2010 campaign.

"Fred DuVal has the skills and temperament we need to put aside the divisive politics and move Arizona forward," Woods said in the ad.

At the opening of his downtown Tucson "Fredquarters" last week, DuVal told a packed room that the ad with Woods was designed to let voters "know what I'm about."

"You may be Democrats, you may be independents, you may be Republicans," DuVal said. "But we have to build a state together."

As Republicans went to the polls last week to choose a nominee, the left-leaning Progress Now released a poll showing that Ducey and DuVal were entering a tight race. The Public Policy Polling survey showed that both Ducey had the support of 34 percent of self-identified likely voters, while DuVal had the support of 32 percent. When the pollsters asked undecided voters which way they were leaning, DuVal picked up 3 percent, while Ducey picked up 1 percent, putting the candidate into a dead heat at 35 percent each.

"Democrats have an opportunity in Arizona because voters are unhappy with Governor Brewer and the current direction of the state," wrote Public Policy Polling Tom Jensen in a polling memo. "An unpopular incumbent and a damaged Republican nominee are combining to make the Arizona governor's office a great opportunity for a Democratic pick up this fall."

Libertarian Barry Hess and Americans Elect candidate John Mealer will also be on the November ballot.

A unusually high 12 percent of the voters surveyed said they were supporting Hess, who has run for governor on the Libertarian ticket three times (2002, 2006, 2101), as well as taking stabs at the U.S. Senate (2000) and president of the United States (2008).

"The high level of support for Hess reflects the unusual amounts of support we're finding for third party candidates across the country right now as voters are unhappy with both parties," Jensen noted.

One key number in the poll, which surveyed 588 likely voters on Aug. 24-25 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent: 41 percent of the voters have an unfavorable impression of Ducey, while just 26 percent have a favorable impression. That underwater ranking likely stems from the negative attacks against Ducey in the GOP primary, Jensen suggested.

Twenty percent of voters have a favorable impression of DuVal, compared to 21 percent who view him unfavorably. That means about six in 10 voters don't have any opinion of him at all, which suggests that he hasn't yet made a big impression on Arizonans. While DuVal has had decades of political experience, it has mostly been behind the scenes—working in Gov. Bruce Babbitt's administration in the 1980s and the Clinton White House in the '90s, and appointed the Arizona Board of Regents in 2006.

"DuVal overcomes Arizona's GOP party registration advantage due to a 16 point lead with independent voters," said Jensen. "Ducey is entering the general election badly damaged by the divisive primary campaign. Only 26 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 41 percent who have a negative one. He's at 17/57 with independents and a weak 43/24 even with Republican voters. DuVal remains largely undefined with 60 percent of voters having no opinion about him and those who do have one pretty evenly split."

Over the Labor Day weekend, Rasmussen Reports released another survey of the governor's race that showed Ducey and DuVal both with 40 percent of the vote. Eight percent supported another candidate, while 13 percent were undecided.

Ducey was viewed very favorably by 19 percent of the voters in the Rasmussen survey and very unfavorably by 20 percent of voters, while DuVal was viewed very favorably by 13 percent and very unfavorably by 10 percent.

The Rasmussen poll surveyed 850 likely voters on Aug. 27-28 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

While Team DuVal cheered the polls as evidence of a tight race, Ducey spokeswoman Melissa DeLaney said it was too early in the campaign to put much stock in the surveys.

"There will be a lot of polls between now and Election Day, and we are confident that Doug Ducey's message of greater opportunity for all Arizonans will resonate with voters across the state," DeLaney said.

More by Jim Nintzel

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