BLUEGRASS POLL: Hal Heiner has early advantage in GOP race for Kentucky governor

Printer-friendly versionPDF version

By SAM YOUNGMAN

Lexington Herald-Leader

 

Former Louisville councilman Hal Heiner has the early advantage in what looks to be a competitive three-way race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Kentucky, according to a new Bluegrass Poll.

With more than two months to go before the May 19 primary election, the poll shows Heiner garnering support from 28 percent of likely Republican voters. Tied in second place at 20 percent are Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, who lost handily to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in last year’s U.S. Senate primary, and James Comer, the state’s commissioner of agriculture. Recently retired Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott brings up the rear with 8 percent.

The race remains fluid, with one in four Republicans saying they haven’t yet made up their mind about who to support.

“I haven’t heard much about anybody,” said poll respondent Dessa Dean of Owensboro, who agreed to a follow-up interview with the Herald-Leader.

Stephen Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky, cautioned that the first Bluegrass Poll of 2015 comes “before most voters are paying attention to the gubernatorial race.”

“Voters are still fatigued from the Senate race last year, and the campaign organizations have not kicked into full gear, so many people can only offer a rough guess of how they’re leaning at this point,” Voss said. “What’s interesting about an early poll like this one is the way it lays out the advantages each candidate brings to the contest as well as the challenges each candidate faces.”

The poll of 529 likely Republican voters, conducted by SurveyUSA on behalf of the Herald-Leader and WKYT-TV in Lexington and The Courier-Journal and WHAS-TV in Louisville, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. That means the pollster is 95 percent confident that Heiner’s support from likely GOP voters ranges from just under 24 percent to just above 32 percent. Support for Comer and Bevin would range from slightly under 16 percent to slightly above 24 percent.

Heiner has been in the race the longest, having announced his candidacy in early 2014, and has vastly outspent his Republican rivals on television advertising and staffing after giving about $5 million of his own money to the campaign last year.
Heiner had spent almost $1.2 million as of the last financial reporting deadline at the end of 2014, which was well before Heiner dramatically stepped up his spending on advertising and staffing.

In comparison, Comer had spent about $200,000 at the end of 2014 and only began running limited television advertising in late February. It’s unclear how much money Bevin, who entered the race in January, has to spend, but he raised more than $5 million in last year’s U.S. Senate race, including more than $1.5 million of his own money.

Heiner’s strength comes from overwhelming support in the Louisville area, where he ran and lost a Louisville mayoral bid in 2010.

In the Louisville region, Heiner enjoys support from 48 percent of likely GOP voters, giving him a 25-point advantage over Bevin and a 38-point lead over Comer, who is from Tompkinsville.

In Western Kentucky, Comer has the support of 38 percent of likely Republican voters, giving him a 16-point edge over Bevin and a 23-point lead over Heiner.

In north-central Kentucky, which includes the Lexington area and much of Northern Kentucky, Heiner’s support from 23 percent of likely voters is four points more than Bevin and seven points more than Comer. One in three voters in the region remain undecided.

Eastern Kentucky is the only region where Scott, who is from Pikeville, garnered double-digit support, at 14 percent. Heiner got 28 percent in the region, putting him 13 points ahead of Bevin and 12 points up on Comer. Twenty-nine percent were undecided.

Jack Bruner, a poll respondent from London, said he met Heiner while he was having coffee recently and said he likes that Heiner is a businessman “who knows how to make a living.”

“That was my first contact with him, but he impressed me,” said Bruner, who agreed to a follow-up interview with the Herald-Leader.

Broadly speaking, Voss said each of the candidates is performing as expected in the various regions of the state, with the possible exception of Heiner’s lead in Eastern Kentucky.

Comer has had a tense relationship with some Eastern Kentucky Republicans, such as U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, over his efforts to legalize hemp and a speech he gave in Somerset in the fall of 2013 in which Comer said he could not be controlled by “party bosses.”

Scott’s entrance into the race also seems to have carved up Eastern Kentucky support that might have otherwise gone to Bevin or Comer.

Bevin, meanwhile, is running second in each region of the state, presumably thanks in large part to his high name identification after last year’s U.S. Senate race.

“The numbers at this stage mostly represent a combination of name recognition and regional ties,” Voss said.

Former Louisville councilman Hal Heiner has the early advantage in what looks to be a competitive three-way race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Kentucky, according to a new Bluegrass Poll.

With more than two months to go before the May 19 primary election, the poll shows Heiner garnering support from 28 percent of likely Republican voters. Tied in second place at 20 percent are Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, who lost handily to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in last year’s Senate primary, and James Comer, state commissioner of agriculture. Recently retired Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott brings up the rear with 7 percent.

The race remains fluid, with one in four Republicans saying they haven’t made up their minds about whom to support.

“I haven’t heard much about anybody,” said poll respondent Dessa Dean of Owensboro, who agreed to a follow-up interview with the Herald-Leader.

Stephen Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky, cautioned that the first Bluegrass Poll of 2015 comes “before most voters are paying attention to the gubernatorial race.”

“Voters are still fatigued from the Senate race last year, and the campaign organizations have not kicked into full gear, so many people can only offer a rough guess of how they’re leaning at this point,” Voss said. “What’s interesting about an early poll like this one is the way it lays out the advantages each candidate brings to the contest as well as the challenges each candidate faces.”

The poll of 529 likely Republican voters, conducted by SurveyUSA on behalf of the Herald-Leader and WKYT-TV in Lexington and The Courier-Journal and WHAS-TV in Louisville, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. That means the pollster is 95 percent confident Heiner’s support from likely GOP voters ranges from just less than 24 percent to slightly more than 32 percent. Support for Comer and Bevin would range from slightly less than 16 percent to just more than 24 percent.

Heiner has been in the race the longest, having announced his candidacy in early 2014, and has vastly outspent his Republican rivals on television advertising and staffing after giving about $5 million of his own money to the campaign last year.
He had spent almost $1.2 million as of the last financial reporting deadline at the end of 2014, which was well before Heiner dramatically stepped up his spending on advertising and staffing.

In comparison, Comer had spent about $200,000 at the end of 2014 and began running limited television advertising only in late February. It’s unclear how much money Bevin, who entered the race in January, has to spend, but he raised more than $5 million in last year’s U.S. Senate race, including more than $1.5 million of his own money.

Heiner’s strength comes from overwhelming support in the Louisville area, where lost a bid for mayor of Louisville in 2010.

In the Louisville region, Heiner enjoys support from 48 percent of likely GOP voters, giving him a 25-point advantage over Bevin and a 38-point lead over Comer, who is from Tompkinsville.

In Western Kentucky, Comer has the support of 38 percent of likely Republican voters, giving him a 16-point edge over Bevin and a 23-point lead over Heiner.

In north-central Kentucky, which includes the Lexington area and much of Northern Kentucky, Heiner’s support from 23 percent of likely voters is four points more than Bevin and seven points more than Comer. One in three voters in the region remains undecided.

Eastern Kentucky is the only region where Scott, who is from Pikeville, garnered double-digit support, at 14 percent. Heiner got 28 percent, putting him 13 points ahead of Bevin and 12 points up on Comer. Twenty-nine percent were undecided.
Jack Bruner, a poll respondent from London, said he met Heiner while having coffee recently and liked that Heiner is a businessman “who knows how to make a living.”

“That was my first contact with him, but he impressed me,” said Bruner, who agreed to a follow-up interview with the Herald-Leader.

Broadly speaking, Voss said, each of the candidates is performing as expected in the various regions of the state, with the possible exception of Heiner’s lead in Eastern Kentucky.

Comer has had a tense relationship with some Eastern Kentucky Republicans, such as U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, over his efforts to legalize hemp and a speech he gave in Somerset in fall 2013, in which Comer said he could not be controlled by “party bosses.”

Scott’s entrance into the race also seems to have carved up Eastern Kentucky support that otherwise might have gone to Bevin or Comer.

Bevin, meanwhile, is running second in each region of the state, presumably thanks in large part to his high name recognition after last year’s U.S. Senate race.

“The numbers at this stage mostly represent a combination of name recognition and regional ties,” Voss said.

Sam Youngman: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @samyoungman. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2015/03/10/3738379_bluegrass-poll-hal-heiner-has...

 

ABOUT THE BLUEGRASS POLL
SurveyUSA interviewed 2,200 adults in the state of Kentucky from March 3 to 8. Of the adults, 1,903 were registered to vote and were asked many of the questions contained in the survey. Of the registered voters, 529 were determined to be Republicans likely to vote in the May 19 Republican primary and 639 were determined to be Democrats likely to vote in the Democratic primary.

For results among registered voters, the poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. For likely primary voters, the sampling margin was plus or minus 3.9 percentage points for Democrats and 4.4 percentage points for Republicans. In theory, one can say with 95 percent certainty that the results would not vary by more than the stated margin of sampling error, in one direction or the other, had the entire universe of respondents been interviewed with complete accuracy.

Respondents reachable on a home telephone were interviewed in the recorded voice of a professional announcer. Respondents reached on a cellphone were shown a questionnaire on their smartphones, tablets or other electronic device.

Republishing or broadcasting the poll’s results without credit to the Lexington Herald-Leader, The Courier-Journal, WHAS-TV and WKYT-TV is prohibited.