Mason-Dixon: Kaine 38%, Kilgore 37%, Potts 9%
By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer
It’s still anybody’s race, but a Mason-Dixon poll released Sunday had a boatload of good news for Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine’s gubernatorial bid.
The poll, conducted July 19-21 by Mason-Dixon Research, found the two leading contenders in the governor’s race in a virtual tie last week. Kaine, the Democratic nominee, was favored by 38 percent of likely voters while Republican Jerry Kilgore, the former attorney general, polled 37 percent.
State Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, who is running an independent campaign for the Governor’s Mansion, polled at 9 percent.
The survey of 625 likely voters has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
“The race is close in most regions of the state,” said J. Bradford Coker, Mason-Dixon’s managing director.
“The candidates appear to be drawing predictable support from voters who identify with their own political parties. It is interesting to note that Potts draws a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats.”
All three campaigns could find things to cheer about in the data.
For Kaine, the best news was the most obvious. Sunday’s poll is the first to show the Democrat ahead of Kilgore statewide. Other polls, like those done by independent pollster Scott Rasmussen and SurveyUSA, have shown Kilgore ahead by as much as 6 percentage points.
Kaine’s favorability ratings continue to climb, reaching 31 percent this month, while his unfavorable ratings continue to hover at about 10 percent.
It’s also good news that Kaine’s boss is doing well.
Gov. Mark R. Warner’s favorability ratings are the highest of any of Virginia’s last six governors at this point in their term. Some 74 percent of voters rate Warner as doing either an “excellent” or “good” job.
In September 2001, Republican Gov. James Gilmore was at 54 percent.
There wasn’t as much good news for Kilgore.
Taxes and state spending ranked second when voters were asked what issue was most important to them, at 17 percent. Only education and public school funding ranked higher, at 21 percent.
Also, Northern Virginia and Southside still haven’t settled on a candidate yet. Kilgore holds a slight lead in Southside, with 37 percent against Kaine’s 36 percent.
Potts’ campaign can take comfort in the fact that the candidate is doing better among independent voters than the population as a whole.
Voters who don’t affiliate themselves with either major party are showing some an affinity for Potts compared to the population as a whole. Fourteen percent said they’d cast their ballot for the Winchester senator.
Potts also is reaching more voters in places where his central theme — transportation — is a bigger issue. He’s polling at 10 percent in Northern Virginia and 11 percent in Hampton Roads.
A majority of voters, 58 percent, want Potts included in any future debates.
Sunday’s poll had its share of downers, too, but more so for Kilgore than Kaine.
A plurality, 44 percent, of undecided voters said they would consider voting for a candidate that would require a referendum on future tax increases — Kilgore’s position.
Northern Virginia, one of the state’s more Democratic-leaning areas, is still “up for grabs,” Coker said.
The bad news for Kilgore is the most obvious. Sunday’s Mason-Dixon poll is the first to show him trailing Kaine.
Meanwhile, a majority of voters, 57 percent, said they supported the 2004 tax package approved by the General Assembly.
Kilgore’s campaign has tried to capitalize on the former attorney general’s opposition to the plan.
A plurality of undecided voters said they would consider voting for a candidate with Kaine’s position of opposing the death penalty and abortion, but allowing both to go forward because of laws on the books — 46 percent for the death penalty, 51 percent for abortion.
The bad news for Potts is the worst for any candidate, though.
He’s still polling at just 9 percent statewide, with lower totals in some of the richest voter hunting grounds in the commonwealth. He pulls in just 6 percent in the Richmond metro area, 5 percent in Lynchburg and Southside and 7 percent in Roanoke and Southwest Virginia.
Even worse, some 57 percent of those polled said they don’t recognize the candidate’s name. Only 19 percent had not heard of Kaine, and 9 percent had not heard of Kilgore.