Matheson Jr. Poll Shows He's Catching Up in Gov's Race

Matheson Jr. Poll Shows He's Catching Up in Gov's Race

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A poll commissioned by the Scott Matheson Jr. campaign shows the Democrat is neck-and-neck with Republican Jon Huntsman Jr. in the race for Utah governor.

The results show a surprising turn from other polls commissioned by Dan Jones & Associates in July and early September that had Matheson trailing Huntsman by at least 10 percentage points.

Pollster Fred Yang of GarinHartYang Research Group of Washington, D.C., said respondents were told Matheson was a Democrat and Huntsman a Republican before they were asked for their preference. Yang corrected a Matheson campaign aide who said Saturday that party affiliations weren't mentioned.

Even so, Huntsman campaign manager Jason Chaffetz said the GarinHartYang poll wasn't credible because it was commissioned by the Matheson camp.

"We'll let the independent polls give a better snapshot of what's going on in this race," Chaffetz said.

The GarinHartYang results had Matheson and Huntsman tying with the support of 42 percent of voters. Another 16 percent was undecided. GarinHartYang polled 505 voters statewide by telephone Sept. 28-29 and said the results had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

Matheson improved his standing over another GarinHartYang poll conducted in April, which found Huntsman leading 49 percent to 35 percent.

Mike Zuhl, Scott Matheson's campaign manager, said Saturday that party affiliations weren't crucial in a race featuring a pair of candidates for governor with high name recognition.

Matheson is the son of a revered Utah governor, and his younger brother Jim Matheson is a popular 2nd district congressman who appears to be coasting to re-election for a third term.

Utah voters have shown a history of "crossover" voting, electing about as many Republican as Democratic governors, and since 1988 Utah has elected two Democratic attorneys general, he said.

Neither candidate has held public office, but Huntsman is heir to his father's petrochemical empire and has represented the nation as a diplomat to Singapore and as a deputy U.S. Trade Commissioner.

Matheson Jr. managed his father's 1976 and 1980 campaigns, served four years as U.S. Attorney for Utah and was dean of the University of Utah law school before running for governor.

Zuhl said the results show the Scott Matheson campaign is building momentum at a time when his campaign advisers expected it. The campaign unleashed much of its advertising in September, running more television ads that month than Huntsman, he said.

Financial disclosures filed with the state Elections Office two weeks ago show Huntsman has raised slightly more than $2.5 million and spent all but $78,607 of it. Scott Matheson reported total contributions of nearly $1.2 million and expenditures of $980,000.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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