Poll: Kitzhaber closes gap in governor’s race

Poll: Kitzhaber closes gap in governor’s race »Play Video
John Kitzhaber and Chris Dudley, the 2010 Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates

SALEM, Ore. - Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is closing the gap in a bid for his old job against former NBA basketball player Chris Dudley, a new KATU News/SurveyUSA poll released Wednesday showed.

Seven weeks ago another poll conducted for KATU News by SurveyUSA showed 47 percent of those polled favored Republican Dudley and 40 percent favored Democrat Kitzhaber.

In the latest poll, Kitzhaber jumped four points and is now favored by 44 percent. Dudley dropped one point but is still ahead and favored by 46 percent.

The difference between them is within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percent. According to SurveyUSA, out of the 850 adults interviewed, 752 were registered to vote and 567 were identified as likely to vote in the November general election.

The poll found that men are moving to Kitzhaber and political analyst Len Bergstein said there is no clear reason why men would be pulling away from Dudley.

“If these results in fact are picking up a movement of male voters, away from Dudley a little bit and more towards Kitzhaber, that has to be a concern to the Dudley campaign. That’s got to be a core constituency that he’s got to win.”

Dudley’s strength, according to the poll, is among older voters, which is the demographic that’s the most reliable when it comes to voting.

Dudley has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television advertising since the May primary but Kitzhaber hasn’t aired a single ad.

To a question whether Dudley should be doing better after spending so much money, Bergstein said, “I think the Dudley campaign has spent their money wisely. They had to get their candidate known. An unknown candidate is a campaign nightmare.”

He said Dudley had to spend the kind of money he has on TV advertising in order to get into the game, and the two candidates are now essentially at the starting gate at the same time in this stage of the race.

According to the Dudley campaign, their candidate has the momentum.

When asked how the poll shows Dudley has the momentum, Leroy Coleman, with the Dudley campaign, said, “Well, I look at your poll and I look at the stats.”

When asked if he could point specifically to those statistics he said, “When I look specifically at your stats, I see that certainly we’re ahead.”

Where the basketball star has momentum is in fundraising.

To date Dudley has raised almost twice as much as Kitzhaber, $2.2 million to Kitzhaber’s $1.3 million. But after spending, both have roughly the same amount in the bank. Dudley has $257,000 and Kitzhaber has $242,000.

The Kitzhaber campaign is lagging behind in fundraising because labor unions have yet to help him out.

When asked if Kitzhaber will get the endorsements and money from big labor, Jillian Schoene, with the Kitzhaber campaign said, “We’ll see. There’s time. We have 95 days to go and we’re working hard.”

While the poll shows Kitzhaber has gained ground, Bergstein cautions about reading too much into that. He said what the poll really shows is it’s anybody’s race.

The Kitzhaber campaign said the former governor will start airing his first TV ad Thursday morning.