February 10, 1996 in Nation/World

Sounding Out Washington Poll Finds Lowry In Trouble Only 14 Percent Would Vote To Give Governor New Term

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Washington voters give Gov. Mike Lowry low job ratings, say moral character is a key campaign issue and are ready to elect someone else.

Those are the conclusions of a new scientific survey of state voters, conducted recently for The Spokesman-Review and KHQ-TV.

“He’s in the doghouse,” said Del Ali of Political/Media Research Inc., which conducted the poll. “Unless he’s going to run against someone like (Nazi leader) Adolf Eichmann, he’s not going to have much of a chance.”

Lowry says he will not announce whether he will seek re-election until after the current legislative session.

Jordan Dey, a Lowry spokesman, said Friday the poll results won’t make a difference in the governor’s decision, expected by early April.

“The governor’s negatives have always been high. That’s the price you pay for taking on tough issues,” Dey said.

In a poll of 814 likely voters in Washington, only about 1 voter in 4 rated Lowry’s job performance as excellent or good. Only 14 percent said they would vote to reelect him if the election were held today, while 40 percent said they would vote to replace him.

In a separate survey of 403 voters in Eastern Washington, Lowry had equally low job approval ratings and even worse re-election support.

More than half those surveyed in the 5th Congressional District said they would vote to replace him - even though Lowry likes to remind voters he’s from Eastern Washington.

Lowry’s job approval rating was the lowest of 36 governors the polling firm has tested in the last year.

Dey argued 35 percent of the voters in the survey who rated Lowry’s performance as “only fair” aren’t necessarily negative. They might be willing to re-elect him, he said.

Voters across the state and in Eastern Washington said the No. 1 issue in determining their vote for governor would be a candidate’s moral character. A third of the women voters surveyed statewide, and a third of all voters in Eastern Washington, list moral character as the top issue.

For Lowry - who was accused of sexual harassment of former aide Suzanne Albright and paid her a settlement even though he denied the claim - that could be a major stumbling block, Ali said.

“That could be part of it,” said Dey. “But voters also want someone with a backbone, who is consistent in what they stand for. Mike Lowry has done that.”

Lowry faces challenges within his party from state Sen. Nita Rinehart of Seattle and former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee.

Todd Myers, a spokesman for the state Republican Party, said the poll confirms what the GOP has been saying all along, that Lowry is vulnerable.

Among Republicans already trying to replace Lowry are King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng, Tacoma attorney Jim Waldo, state Rep. Dale Foreman, Sen. Pam Roach and former Sen. Ellen Craswell.

Paul Berendt, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said he has talked with Lowry about other polls that also show his unpopularity. He believes the governor faces “the fight of his life” if he seeks re-election.

“We’re concerned about the governor’s numbers, but he’s been down before and overcome the odds,” Berendt said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: How we rate Gov. Lowry


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