Poll: Majority of Utahns Ready for New Governor

Poll: Majority of Utahns Ready for New Governor

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP)-- Utahns may be ready for a change at the top in the state's government.

According to a new poll, 60 percent of Utahns definitely or probably want a new governor, while 36 percent indicated they would like to see Leavitt re-elected for a fourth term.

"I'm not surprised nor disappointed," Leavitt told the Deseret News, which along with KSL-TV hired Dan Jones & Associates to do the poll for a story in Sunday's editions.

"Ultimately, I'll be judged at the ballot box or by history," he said. "If you run for governor the first time or fourth, you have to put forward a vision for the state."

Leavitt, 52, recently reopened a campaign account, but that does not mean he's running. Should he decide against a campaign, the account could be closed and any funds in it legally transferred to several of Leavitt's personal political action committees.

The poll had a plus or minus rate of 4 percent and surveyed 619 Utah residents, who were asked their opinion of how Leavitt was handling the job and whether it was time for him to step down. There were 39 percent that said it was definitely time to get somebody else in office, while 21 percent said it was probably time.

"People just believe you should serve a few terms and leave. It's (citizens') natural term-limit attitude," said Jones, who teaches political science at the University of Utah professor and has polled in the state for 30 years.

While Utahns may want a new face in the governor's office, overall they still seem to like the job Leavitt is doing. The survey found 75 percent approve of the job the governor is doing, 23 percent disapprove and 3 percent don't know.

"I'm gratified that so many (Utahns) still have a high opinion of the job I'm doing," Leavitt said. "But every election is new. And I have a very personal decision to make."

Jones also found that Leavitt gets only 29 percent support when his name is thrown into the mix of nearly a dozen Republicans believed to be considering running for governor next year.

Former U.S. ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. comes in second with 23 percent of the support.

All of those surveyed Republicans, Democrats and independents were asked their GOP favorites. Among those who said they are Republicans, 38 percent liked Leavitt, an improvement. Huntsman got 23 percent support among Republicans. Huntsman also got 24 percent support among Democrats and 23 percent support among independents. Leavitt got 20 percent each among those groups.

Huntsman has said he won't challenge Leavitt if the governor runs again. Republican Fred Lampropoulos, a Salt Lake City area millionaire, plans to run for the GOP nomination, although he hasn't formally announced.

"If Leavitt doesn't run, it totally changes the dynamics of the race," Jones said.

There is no clear Democratic favorite for governor now, Jones found. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, does the best with 28 percent support among Democrats, followed by former gubernatorial candidate/U.S. House member Bill Orton at 17 percent.

Utah hasn't elected a Democratic governor since 1980.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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