Independent state Sen. Bob Leeper leads in three-way race, cn|2 poll finds

10/01/2010 07:15 PM

State Sen. Bob Leeper, the Senate budget chairman and only registered independent lawmaker in Kentucky, is ahead in his re-election bid heading into the final month of campaigning, according to the cn|2 Poll of likely voters in the 2nd state Senate district.

The 2nd District covers McCracken, Marshall and Ballard counties. Leeper is seeking his sixth term — and second as a registered independent.

Leeper, of Paducah, faces a challenge from Democrat Rex Smith, a highway contractor who served as a state representative in the 1990s. Mike East, aRepublican who is running on a single-issue platform of advocating for fathers in custody hearings, is running a more limited campaign.

The cn|2 Poll of 452 likely voters showed Leeper with nearly 40% of respondents support and Smith with 35.6%.  East drew 10% of support.

The survey was conducted Sept. 27 and 28 by live telephone interviewers from Braun Research Inc., of Princeton, N.J. Click here to view the details and crosstabs of the 2nd District poll. It is weighted based on age and party affiliation of voters who turned out in the 2006 election — the last time the seat was up for election.

In that 2006 race, Leeper edged former Democratic congressman Carroll Hubbard in a three-way race by 58 votes out of nearly 38,000 cast. Leeper received 41.1% of the vote that fall. A Republican candidate, Neil Archer, picked up 18% of the vote.

Conditions in this race are much different.

Leeper has the full backing of his Republican Senate colleagues, including Senate President David Williams of Burkesville. Williams and the Republican leadership elevated Leeper to be the budget chairman two years ago.

And East is running a more limited campaign than Archer did four years ago.

“Mr. Archer was well-funded and had the support of the Republican Party,” Leeper said in a telephone interview. “That’s not the case this time. I think there will be less of (a syphoning away of votes) this time.”

Leeper said he has seen polling that shows him ahead of Smith by double digits, so he said his support in the cn|2 Poll seemed low.

Democrats have touted Smith as one of their candidates with the best chances of picking up a seat for the party, which is in the minority with 17 seats compared to 20 for Republicans plus Leeper.

Smith has gone after Leeper in some of his stump speeches this fall, saying Leeper hasn’t done much for the district as a senator, as the Paducah Sun’s Bill Bartleman reported.

Leeper held only his third press conference in 20 years as a senator to rebut Smith. He cited his advocacy for construction funding for a Paducah middle school to be included in the two-year budget and energy efficiency legislation he sponsored that has passed the legislature.

Smith was filming campaign commercials Friday and was unavailable for comment on the poll.

Other results from the cn|2 Poll in Marshall, McCracken and Ballard counties show:

  • Leeper has an approval rating of more than 60% compared to less than 20% who disapprove of the job he’s been doing in the Senate.
  • Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s approval rating is less than 54%. And 33.7% of respondents said they disapproved of the job the governor is doing.
  • The likely voters polled would rather see Republicans control the state Senate by 46.4% compared to 39% for Democrats.
  • The margin was slightly wider when it came to Congress, with the respondents preferring Republicans in control, 46.2% to 37.3% for Democrats.
  • Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul holds a slim lead over Democrat Jack Conway in the district, 43.4% to 41.5%.
  • Overall, the weighted results showed 73% of respondents were registered Democrats compared to 24% of Republicans, yet when asked which party they felt closer to, 46.8% said the Republican Party and 41.5% said the Democratic Party.

- Ryan Alessi


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