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Governor's race tight, Trump in trouble here, new poll numbers show

Incumbent governor's lead over challenger down to seven points; presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton enjoys healthy advantage


Gov. Kate Brown holds a modest lead over Republican challenger Bud Pierce, according to a new survey of statewide voters.

And Donald Trump faces some uphill battles trying to win over the electorate, the poll incdicates.

According to a poll by iCitizen, Brown is seven points ahead of Pierce, leading the race 42 percent to 35 percent, with 23 percent undecided.

“At this stage, it’s a competitive contest,” said Mark Keida, director of research and polling for iCitizen, the nonpartisan public involvement organization that conducted the poll.

That assessment surprises some political observers. Oregon is a solidly blue state and Brown is a prominent Democratic politician who served in the Legislature and as secretary of state before replacing John Kitzhaber as governor when he resigned in February 2015.

Pierce, by contrast, is a Salem cancer doctor who was relatively unknown, even among fellow Republicans, until he jumped into the governor’s race last fall. He and his family personally funded most of his successful primary campaign against Republican businessman Allen Alley, who had previously run for statewide office.

Keida notes that Brown’s lead is only half of the 14-point advantage that Democrat Hillary Clinton holds over Trump in Oregon for the presidential race.

And Keida also notes Pierce is faring better with third-party and nonaffiliated voters than Brown, something Republican candidates must do to make up for their disadvantage in party registration. The poll shows 36 percent of such voters support Pierce compared to 26 percent for Brown, with 38 percent of those voters still undecided.

The iCitizen poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent, meaning results could be off by that amount in either direction.

Keida said there are other significant differences in the support — or lack of support — between the gubernatorial candidates.

Brown leads Pierce among voters 49 and younger, but the advantage flips to Pierce with voters 50 and older. Not surprisingly, Brown’s strongest support geographically is in the heavily Democratic Portland metro area, where she holds a more than 2-1 advantage over Pierce.

The presidential contest shows the same general pattern.

The poll found Clinton has 46 percent of the vote, compared to 32 percent for the presumptive GOP nominee, with 22 percent undecided.

Clinton leads Trump in almost every category, except among Republicans and voters outside the metro area and Willamette Valley. And while national pundits have suggested Clinton struggles to connect with youth, Oregon voters under the age of 34 give her a whopping 54 percent to 21 percent advantage over Trump.

Keida notes some interesting differences between the presidential and gubernatorial races.

Clinton, for example, has the support of more Democrats than Brown does, getting 89 percent of their vote compared to Brown’s 84 percent. Similarly, Clinton does better in the Portland area (57 percent) than does Brown (50 percent).

In the Republican races, Pierce has more support within his party (76 percent) than does Trump (70 percent). And while his support among women is low, at 33 percent, it’s better than Trump’s 29 percent.

The poll is a reminder that, despite her lengthy career in Oregon politics, Brown has struggled in previous elections. She won the 1992 Democratic primary for state House by just seven votes. In her first bid for secretary of state, Brown received just under 51 of the vote. Four years later, while President Obama was easily winning re-election, Brown was returned to office with just over 51 percent of the vote.

In her first race for governor, Brown has a considerable fundraising advantage over Pierce. Her campaign committee is reporting $1.32 million on hand. Pierce is reporting only around $76,000.

The race between Brown and Pierce will decide who fills the remaining two years of Kitzhaber’s term. The next election for a full term will happen in 2018.

Many voters still undecided

It’s early in the season, so perhaps it’s not surprising that most statewide contests are up for grabs, according to a new poll.

The race for secretary of state, for example, is almost evenly split between Democrat Brad Avakian (36 percent), Republican Dennis Richardson (32 percent) and undecided (32 percent).

Avakian, the current state labor commissioner, gets his strongest support from women, voters 18 to 34 and those in the Portland area. Richardson, who ran for governor two years ago, leads among those 50 and older and those outside Portland. Richardson has an advantage among third-party and nonaffiliated voters (28 percent support to Avakian’s 20 percent), but more than half of those voters have not yet made up their minds.

“It’s a tight race with a lot of undecided (voters),” Keida said.

One area where Richardson holds a clear advantage — at least for now — is in his campaign chest. His most recent financial disclosure reports show he has $344,380 in the bank, compared to $16,140 for Avakian.

The poll also suggests that voters have yet to focus on the state treasurer’s race, where 41 percent of the voters are still undecided.

Democrat Tobias Read has support of 26 percent of those polled compared to 19 percent for Republican Jeff Gudman. Chris Telfer, a former state senator from Bend running as the Independent Party of Oregon candidate, is close behind at 14 percent.

According to the most recent campaign finance filings, Read has about $186,352 in the bank compared to around $17,551 for Gudman and a 1,199 deficit for Telfer.