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Poll Shows Both Statewide Races Swinging Toward Incumbents

Republican candidates are struggling this election season, according to a new poll released by OPB and Fox 12.

The poll found that 50 percent of respondents would vote for incumbent Democrat John Kitzhaber, in the race for governor.

DHM Survey: Governor

For a sample size of 516, the margin of error for each question falls between +/-2.6% and +/-4.3%, at the 95% confidence level. Data courtesy of DHM Research.  

While just 29 percent say they’ll vote for Republican challenger Dennis Richardson.

Pollster John Horvick of Portland-based DHM Research, says that’s a big gulf for Richardson to bridge, especially considering ballots are coming out Wednesday.

Pollster John Horvick of Portland-based DHM Research.

Pollster John Horvick of Portland-based DHM Research.

Kristian Foden-Vencil/OPB

“Independent voters are breaking two to one for Kitzhaber. Among Republicans only 60 percent say they plan to vote for Richardson at this point, compared to 81 percent of Democrats who plan to vote for Kitzhaber. So the governor has his party locked up to a greater extent than Dennis Richardson does and Independents are breaking his way,” Horvick says.

The poll of likely voters was taken last week, largely after news that Kitzhaber’s fiancee Cylvia Hayes revealed she’d married an Ethiopian student for about $5,000 17-years-ago — so he could get a green card. They filed for a divorce four years later.

Jana Hofer is a retired state worker living in Salem, who spends her time hiking and learning French. She says she doesn’t blame Kitzhaber for Hayes’ actions.

“Whatever problems she brought on herself, he wasn’t even around then. And I’m sure that between them they’re probably talking about this,” Hofer says.

The Republican candidate in another high-profile race, Monica Wehby is suffering from similar poll numbers in her challenge for the U.S. Senate.

DHM Survey: US Senate

For a sample size of 516, the margin of error for each question falls between +/-2.6% and +/-4.3%, at the 95% confidence level. Data courtesy of DHM Research.  

Only 26 percent of likely voters said they’d vote for the neurosurgeon.

47 percent said they’d vote for incumbent senator, Democrat Jeff Merkley.

Pollster John Horvic says just 52 percent of Republicans plan to vote for Wehby at this point.

“She hasn’t locked down barely a majority of her own party. 22 percent of Republicans still say that they’re undecided. Now I expect most of them will break to her when it comes to election day, and we’ll see that margin decline a bit. But it speaks to the weakness of her candidacy,” Horvic says.

Among Democratic voters in Oregon, 72 percent said they’d vote for their party’s nominee, Senator Jeff Merkley.

Daniel Martin is a retired fire fighter living in Myrtle Point.

He votes what he calls the “DRIP” ticket — which stands for Drop Returning Incumbent Politicians. So he does plan to vote for Wehby, but he’s hardly thrilled about it.

“As in a lot of elections my alternate choice is not the best choice I would like. But again I would rather shuffle the deck and try someone new. So, sometimes you’re stuck with a Hobson’s choice,” Martin says.

The poll found that voters in general aren’t paying much attention to this election.

66 percent of respondents couldn’t name the Republican candidate for Governor, Dennis Richardson. And 59 percent couldn’t name the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Monica Wehby.

Governor John Kitzhaber did a little better; 62 percent could name him as the Democratic candidate for Governor, but 38 percent couldn’t. Senator Merkley was recognized by 46 percent as his party’s candidate.

“We’re three weeks from the election, ballots go out on Wednesday and of the four major candidates, can half the voters even name,” Horvic says.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent.