The San Juan Daily Star
In close, crucial governor’s races, poll finds sharp split on elections
By Reid J. Epstein and Ruth Igielnik
Republicans are running dead even or slightly ahead in races for governor that could change the future of elections in Arizona and end Democrats’ hold on Nevada, according to new polling of four key battleground states from The New York Times and Siena College.
The stakes are highest in Arizona, where the Republican nominee for governor, Kari Lake, has relentlessly pushed the false notion that the 2020 election was stolen. She is locked in a tight race with Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state, who rose to national prominence for defending Arizona’s 2020 voting procedures.
In Nevada, Joe Lombardo, a Republican sheriff who has walked a line between his party’s moderate and Trump wings, holds a slim lead over Gov. Steve Sisolak in a contest that could push the state firmly to the right, if Republicans win control of the Legislature.
Pennsylvania voters, however, appear likely to reject Doug Mastriano, a struggling far-right Republican who has vowed to transform the state’s election system, preferring by a wide margin Josh Shapiro, the state’s Democratic attorney general.
And in Georgia, voters are leaning toward upholding the status quo, narrowly preferring Gov. Brian Kemp, a staunch conservative who ignored former President Donald Trump’s appeals to help overturn the 2020 election in the state, to Stacey Abrams, the Democratic challenger.
In all four states, the winners of next Tuesday’s elections will have substantial influence over an array of policies, including abortion rights and criminal justice. While the fate of elections and voting may carry the most import, voters indicated that they were most concerned about the economy.
“It’s really weird that a lot of the Democrats are so worried about abortion, and they’re not worried about anything else, like the economy or the border or the prices of prescriptions,” said Melanie Long, 46, of Kingman, Arizona. She said that she had an abortion when she was 17 and would like the procedure to remain legal early in pregnancies but that she planned to vote a straight Republican ticket.
The mixed polling results in the four states — three of which backed Trump in 2016 and flipped to Joe Biden in 2020 — reflect how candidates for governor often defy national political trends, with some voters separating contenders for state office from those for the U.S. Senate and House.
Among the four states, Arizona has the largest contingent of Republicans who say they would prefer candidates who subscribe to Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. That sentiment has buoyed the candidacy of Lake, a telegenic former local news anchor with a missionary zeal to promote her agenda. She and Hobbs are deadlocked at 48% each, the poll found.
It is a different story in Pennsylvania, with fewer stolen-election devotees and a Republican nominee, Mastriano, whose bare-bones campaign and refusal to engage with mainstream news outlets have left him struggling to amplify his message. The poll found Mastriano, a state senator, trailing Shapiro, 53% to 40%.
In Georgia, Kemp’s strong approval ratings have helped him take a lead of 50% to 45% over his Democratic rival, Abrams — though he would need to hit that mark or better next week to avoid a December runoff election.
In Nevada, Lombardo narrowly led Sisolak, a Democrat seeking a second term, 49% to 45%.
In all four states, the Democratic candidates for governor are outperforming Biden’s approval rating, which is low in each place as well as nationally. In Arizona, Hobbs is running 12 points ahead of Biden, while in Pennsylvania, Shapiro is doing 11 points better.
Shapiro has built his lead with support from voters who backed Trump in recent presidential elections and are planning to vote this year for Dr. Mehmet Oz, the state’s Republican candidate for Senate. Thirteen percent of Oz’s supporters in the poll said they also planned to vote for Shapiro.
And while all four states have been the subject of nearly two years of false claims by Republicans that Biden’s victories in each one were illegitimate, only a minority of voters wanted to support a candidate who thought Biden won. A majority said that they did not care or preferred a candidate who says Trump won.
In races for secretary of state, the polls also found that voters in Arizona and Nevada, where the Republican nominees have espoused many false claims about the 2020 election, prefer their Democratic opponents. However, many voters were undecided or did not know the candidates, suggesting that the races could swing the other way.
Adrian Fontes, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state in Arizona, leads the Republican nominee, Mark Finchem — who, like Mastriano, was near the Capitol on Jan. 6 — by 47% to 40%.
Warning signs remain for Fontes, beyond the large number of undecided voters. Arizona has among the highest share of likely voters, 19%, who say they want to vote for a candidate who falsely says Trump won the 2020 election.
In Nevada, 21% of likely voters say they would prefer a candidate who believes Trump won the 2020 election, and 34% say the issue does not matter. Only 3% of Republicans prefer a candidate who says Biden won, the smallest share among Republicans in any of the four states.
Pamela Secrest, 63, an account manager who works remotely from Silver Springs, Nevada, voted for Biden in 2020 to help oust Trump, but she is very unhappy with the president’s performance and the direction of the country.
Secrest said that she had already cast her absentee ballot for Lombardo, the Republican candidate for governor. She said that she had also voted for Cisco Aguilar, the Democrat running for secretary of state against Jim Marchant, an election denier who has organized a group of like-minded Republicans running for top election posts around the country.
“I just don’t buy in to any kind of conspiracy,” Secrest said. “There’s always going to be some fraudulent votes cast but not enough to change the election.”
In Georgia, Kemp’s advantage over Abrams rests on his strength with men. The governor has an 16-point advantage with men, while Abrams has just a 5-point lead with women, who make up a slightly larger share of the state’s electorate.
Abrams has spent much of her campaign trying to narrow the gap with men, in particular Black men, by holding a series of events, “Stacey and the Fellas,” directed at them.
But it’s not clear that her efforts will be enough to catch up with Kemp.