October 27, 1996 in City

Sounding Out Washington Craswell Makes It A Race Candidate For Governor Cuts Locke’s Once-Giant Lead

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Republican Ellen Craswell is closing the gap on Democrat Gary Locke as the race for Washington’s governor nears the Nov. 5 finish.

A new scientific survey of likely voters, conducted Thursday and Friday, shows Craswell gained significant support in the last month, and would outpoll Locke in Eastern Washington if the election were held now.

But Locke’s substantial lead in the Puget Sound area - where a majority of the state’s voters live - keeps him in the lead statewide, according to the survey by Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research Inc.

“Craswell seems to be bringing some of the Republican vote back into her fold,” said Brad Coker, president of the polling firm. “It’s a race.”

A poll taken in early October showed Locke leading Craswell 53 percent to 34 percent. The current poll has that margin cut more than in half - 48 percent for Locke, 41 percent for Craswell.

Kathy Mears, a spokeswoman for Craswell, said the results were encouraging.

“The polls affect our strategy very little,” Mears said. “But this is a tremendous encouragement to our volunteers and supporters.”

Sheryl Hutchison, a spokeswoman for Locke, said the results confirm what their campaign was saying when the gap was much larger: “This election will be hard-fought all the way.”

Locke had been considered such an overwhelming favorite that some traditional Democratic contributors had been giving money to other candidates, she said. “Perhaps now, people who believe in Gary will start to take this seriously.”

The poll - conducted for The Spokesman-Review, KHQ-TV in Spokane and KING-TV in Seattle suggests that both candidates are connecting with a significant number of voters on the issues they highlight in their campaigns.

Voters in the survey were asked whether moral and social issues or educational issues are more important to them in making their choice between gubernatorial candidates. Locke talks about improving the state’s schools and universities at every campaign stop. Craswell, a Christian and social conservative, often talks about traditional family values.

Voters were fairly evenly split, with 47 percent choosing educational issues and 40 percent choosing moral and social issues.

“I figured education would be a lot higher,” said Coker. “But (GOP presidential nominee) Dole, is hammering on character and those issues cover more ground.”

The poll showed that nearly half the voters were leery of candidates who can be labeled “religious conservatives.” A fourth of the voters said they’d be more likely to vote for such a candidate.

That would tend to work against Craswell, if voters are aware of her leanings. But in campaign speeches and literature, the former state senator does not focus on her Christian faith, but on cutting taxes and spending and on strong moral character.

“Honesty, integrity, the protection of family values, those things can be appreciated by anyone of any faith,” Mears said.

Both candidates’ names are recognized by almost all the voters, and those polled were slightly more likely to have a positive opinion of Locke than of Craswell. But Craswell’s favorability ratings - those voters who say they recognize her name and have a favorable opinion - have actually improved in the last month while Locke’s have declined slightly.

Hutchison attributed that to television “attack ads” by the state Republican Party that brand Locke as a “tax and spend liberal” and someone who supported a plan to “give self-esteem training to prostitutes.” The plan was part of a federally funded program to stop the spread of AIDS among female prostitutes through condoms, counseling and encouraging prostitutes to find other lines of work.

“We’re disappointed that Ellen Craswell, as a good Christian, hasn’t asked (the Republican Party) to stop the ads,” Hutchison said. , DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Graphics: Craswell closes the gap; How we make our choices for governor


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