October 28, 1996 in Nation/World

Sounding Out Washington Race For Insurance Commissioner In A Dead Heat Bergeson Holds Clear Lead Over Taber In Superintendent Of Public Instruction Race

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Three weeks of campaigning have done little to change voters’ minds about who is best to fill two key state posts, a scientific survey indicates.

The race for state insurance commissioner is essentially a dead heat, with nearly a fourth of the voters still trying to decide between incumbent Democrat Deborah Senn and Republican challenger Anthony Lowe.

Senn has a slight lead - 39 percent to Lowe’s 35 percent - in the statewide poll of voters conducted by Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research.

The race for superintendent of public instruction has a clear leader: Terry Bergeson, former executive director of the state Commission on Student Learning, was named by 46 percent of the voters; while Ron Taber, owner of a construction and real estate business, was the choice of 33 percent.

Senn gained 2 percentage points in the insurance commissioner’s race from similar surveys conducted in early October, as did Taber in the schools superintendent race. But those increases are within the poll’s 3.5 percent margin of error.

Matt Rosenberg, a spokesman for Bergeson, said the campaign isn’t about to start coasting - despite the widening lead.

“The last thing in the world you want to do is get overconfident,” he said.

Taber called the results “phony” because the survey named the two candidates’ names when asking respondents for whom they would vote.

“The fact is, the people don’t even know our names,” Taber said. “As long as she’s under 50 percent, I’ve still got a shot at it.”

When voters in the survey were asked if they recognized the candidates’ names, about one in four said they didn’t recognize Bergeson, and one in three didn’t recognize Taber.

Robert Harkins, campaign director for Senn, said he considered the slight increase an encouraging sign, but acknowledged the race has not yet received much attention from voters.

Although Senn has held the post for four years, one voter in three surveyed didn’t recognize her name. Lowe’s name wasn’t recognized by half the voters in the survey.

Senn plans to begin a statewide advertising campaign this week to convince voters “she’s been putting consumers first for the last four years,” Harkins said.

Lowe said he hopes to gain ground when undecided voters start paying attention to the race.

He will run television ads and mail brochures to voters this week in an attempt to convince them Senn is not a consumer advocate, he said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Insurance commissioner race tight

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