Down ballot Democrats begin with leads; Auditor race is closest in cn|2 Poll

06/10/2011 08:39 AM

Democrats running for the other statewide offices in the November election start with leads in the first general election cn|2 Poll, with the race for state auditor starting as the closest contest.

Attorney General Jack Conway and state Treasurer Todd Hollenbach are the only incumbents running for re-election, other than Gov. Steve Beshear.

Both Conway and Hollenbach start with double-digit leads in the cn|2 Poll. Conway starts in the strongest position, garnering more than 56% of support from respondents against Todd P’Pool, the Republican Hopkins County Attorney who is making his first run for office outside of Hopkins County.

While neither Conway nor P’Pool had primary contests, Conway is coming off the 2010 run for U.S. Senate where he garnered a lot of attention — both positive and negative.

Meanwhile, the race to replace state Auditor Crit Luallen, who is term-limited, is starting within the margin of error. Democrat Adam Edelen holds less than a 3-point lead, about 38% to 35%, over Republican candidate John Kemper.

The cn|2 Poll was conducted June 6-8 by live interviewers from Braun Research of New Jersey. The poll has a margin or error of 3.5 points. The poll surveyed 802 likely voters who voted in the 2007 or 2010 elections or both elections, with 88 percent of those surveyed having voted in both.

You can view the methodology and the detailed results and crosstabs here:
June2011 FULL cn2 poll.pdf [1.12MB]

Attorney General
Conway opens the general election season with a 56% to 30% lead over P’Pool, with 14% unsure.

Neither candidate has run TV or radio ads at this point. So far, P’Pool has done a slightly better job at raising money and has received help this week from U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul.

In a statement, Conway’s new campaign manager, Melissa Wideman, said the poll results show that voters support Conway’s work as attorney general.

“This 26-point lead is simply an affirmation of the outstanding job Jack has done as attorney general,” Wideman said. “Our campaign will take nothing for granted and will work hard to earn every vote, but it appears voters appreciate Jack standing up for those who need someone to help them in these difficult times.”

But Jonathan Duke, political director for the P’Pool campaign, dismissed the polling difference. He noted the P’Pool campaign hadn’t spent any money on advertising yet and that the poll only reflected name recognition.

“The race for Kentucky Attorney General has only just begun,” Duke said in a statement. “We have not spent a dime on messaging yet and once voters get to know Todd P’Pool these numbers will change drastically. We are excited to get started.”

Respondents seemed least certain of whom to support in the race to replace two-term auditor Luallen.

Edelen, the Democratic candidate former chief of staff to Gov. Steve Beshear, has a slim 3 percent lead over Republican John Kemper, a Lexington businessman.

And of all the down-ticket races, this one had the highest percentage of respondents who were unsure about whom to support: 27.5%.

Neither Edelen nor Kemper has run TV ads yet. Kemper raised about $20,000 in his GOP primary run against state Rep. Addia Wuchner of Florence. And Edelen didn’t face a primary challenge.

“We’re pleased with the numbers and our strategy of running a vigorous campaign that all Kentuckians can be proud of remains unchanged,” Nathan Cryder, communications director for Edelen, said. “As a result of being unopposed in the primary, we’ve not yet had an opportunity to introduce ourselves in a broad way to the people of Kentucky. The general election will afford us that opportunity.

Kemper said he knows the race will be a tough one, especially after Edelen raised more than $430,000 this spring even without a primary challenge. But he added that Edelen already has spent nearly a quarter of it.

“I’m fully convinced they don’t now what to do with the pile of cash,” he said. “They’ll waste most of it.”

Kemper is going through personal bankruptcy problems and home foreclosure as he poured in personal funds to keep his development business afloat. Kemper said he’s confident many of the undecided voters will break toward him as more of them “realize there need to be some drastic changes.”

“Until you feel it in your wallet, you really don’t pay attention,” he said of some voters’ attitudes.

Secretary of State
After defeating incumbent Secretary of State Elaine Walker in a Democratic primary, Lexington attorney Alison Lundergan Grimes starts the general election with an 11-point lead over Elkton businessman and Republican Bill Johnson.

Grimes is polling at 44 percent, while Johnson is at 33 percent, with 24 percent undecided.

Both Johnson and Grimes faced spirited primaries, with Johnson’s race going to a recanvass before being decided. Grimes, a political newcomer, gathered major Democratic support early in the primary.

Despite being down, Johnson said he felt “pretty good” about the polling numbers, especially since he didn’t raise or spend a lot of money in the primary.

“I feel comfortable where we are,” Johnson told Pure Politics in a phone interview. “We haven’t talked about the issues. When we start talking about the issues that margin will shrink.”

Grimes campaign said the poll numbers were welcome news, but Grimes will continue to try and grow her support.

“The Grimes campaign is pleased to learn of today’s results in the cn|2 poll, which mirror the excitement and strong support we are receiving all across Kentucky,” Jonathan Hurst, a campaign strategist for Grimes, said in a statement. “…Alison is committed to continuing to build a solid grassroots organization throughout Kentucky and running a campaign based on sound ideas and hard work that will bring real results to Kentucky families.”

Agriculture Commissioner
Democrat Bob Farmer, who emerged from a five-way Democratic primary to be the nominee, starts with 48% compared to 33% for Republican candidate James Comer, a state representative from Tompkinsville.

Farmer, who is making his first run for office, quickly has received the support of his four former primary opponents since the May 17 primary.

Comer, a state representative from southern Kentucky, was one of the most prolific fund-raisers in the spring primary season on his way to a solid win on May 17. But he discounted the poll numbers as being inaccurate and he brushed off the legitimacy of Farmer’s candidacy.

“I got twice as many votes as Bob Farmer in the primary,” Comer said. “People either think he’s Richie Farmer or a (real) farmer and he is neither. He is a comedian from Louisville.”

Farmer said he was humbled by his lead in the poll.

“I am humbled by the support we have received,” Farmer said in a statement. “There is a lot of work to do and I look forward to a spirited race in the fall.”

In Hollenbach’s race, the incumbent treasurer starts with a 45% to 28% lead over Republican K.C. Crosbie, a Lexington city councilwoman. Libertarian Ken Moellman received 5% of respondents’ support to start, while another 23% were unsure.

Hollenbach, when contacted by phone, said he was pleased with what the first snapshot of the electorate showed.

Crosbie said Hollenbach’s lead was the result of name recognition — not popularity. She noted that Hollenbach failed to reach the 50% mark, a symbolic threshold for incumbents.

“Any poll taken now is a reflection of name recognition,” said Crosbie, who unlike Hollenbach, didn’t draw primary opposition this spring.

She said that once Hollenbach’s record, or lackthereof, is revealed, the numbers will move in her favor.

-Reporting by Kenny Colston, with additional reporting by Ryan Alessi and Lanny Brannock.


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