Someone is polling Democratic primary for governor but pollster wouldn't tell Conway who

05/21/2014 10:25 PM

Kentucky Democrats began getting calls Wednesday from a polling firm asking pointed questions about potential 2015 Democratic candidates for governor — most specifically about Jack Conway and Adam Edelen.

And, coincidentally, among those who answered the phone when the polling firm called Wednesday night was Conway, the attorney general and the only Democrat so far to announce for next year’s race.

Conway, who filed paperwork earlier this month to run for governor with state Rep. Sannie Overly as his running mate, said he didn’t commission the poll and wasn’t aware of anyone who did.

Edelen “doesn’t know anything about it,” his spokeswoman, Stephenie Hoelscher, said Wednesday night.

A Kentuckian cannot raise or spend money on a campaign for governor without forming a slate with a lieutenant governor candidate and filing paperwork with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. But that wouldn’t prevent an independent group or interested donor from polling separately — as long as there was no coordination with the prospective candidate.

Still, someone was in the field starting Wednesday evening.

The poll questions tested Democrats’ opinions of Conway and Edelen, as well as House Speaker Greg Stumbo and former Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo. Stumbo and Mongiardo haven’t eliminated the possibility of running. And Edelen has said he would announce his intentions shortly after releasing an audit of the Jefferson County Public Schools. That audit report came out Wednesday.

While the poll asks respondents about whether they view Conway and the three prospective candidates favorably or unfavorably. But the questions go into far more detail about Conway and Edelen, including brief biographies and potential negatives.

Former Democratic Congressman Mike Ward, a Conway supporter, was polled earlier Wednesday evening. He gave Pure Politics permission to post an audio recording of the poll that he made using his iPhone.

Below is a clip, edited down for brevity, of the poll. Oddly, the caller badly mispronounces Edelen’s first and last names but somehow nailed the pronunciation of Mongiardo. Despite Ward gently correcting her, the caller mispronounces “Edelen” throughout the poll.

While Ward is backing Conway, he said he responded that he has a “somewhat unfavorable” view of Edelen because he often gives random answers to the poll questions.

Both Ward and Conway said their caller ID showed the number was coming from “Research Center.” The number Conway provided had an Armada, Mich., area code and a search of the phone number linked it to Mountain West Research Center, a polling firm based in Nevada. A message left after hours with one of the Mountain West Research representatives was not immediately returned.

Conway told Pure Politics that the pollster wasn’t looking to ask him the survey questions. The caller asked to speak to his wife, Elizabeth, he said.

“I asked, What kind of survey?’” Conway said. After the caller said it was about next year’s governor’s race, Conway asked her who commissioned the poll.

“She said she couldn’t tell me — that they didn’t know,” Conway said. Conway revealed to the survey worker that she was speaking to the attorney general and one of the subjects of the poll.

“She got off the phone pretty quickly after that,” Conway said.

As for the content of the poll, Conway said he only learned of the questions later. He said he wasn’t phased by the questions testing potential criticisms of him. They include that Conway “doesn’t understand the concerns and problems of most Kentuckians” and that Conway has spent most of his career in government and is “an insider.” He also noted that one question was incorrect by saying his run for governor was his fourth campaign since 2008. It will be his fourth since 2007.

The potential negatives the pollster cited about Edelen include that he has “jumped from job-to-job” and appears to be “climbing the political ladder.” One question also said critics have said Edelen “has a reputation as a brash, divisive speaker.”

Conway said he didn’t think that was an accurate description of Edelen.

The two did talk about the brewing primary in late April. But Conway said what they discussed will remain private. Conway said he called Edelen on May 5 — the day before he officially announced for governor — and left a message for him about the coming announcement.

One other thing about the poll: Ward noted that the pollster asked for him by name. And Conway said the caller asked to speak to Elizabeth Conway. That’s unusual for polling firms to ask for respondents by name unless they were calling off voter rolls or similar lists rather than random-digit dialing.


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