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Sounding Out Washington Rice Leads Locke, New Poll Shows Foreman Tops Gop; Pollster Says Both Races Are Extremely Close

Fri., Sept. 13, 1996

Seattle Mayor Norm Rice is moving to the top of the gubernatorial primary field, while Dale Foreman leads a closely bunched group of Republicans, a new survey shows.

But one voter in six was undecided with only a week to go before Tuesday’s primary in the survey sponsored by The Spokesman-Review, KHQTV in Spokane and KING-TV in Seattle.

Rice and Foreman like the new survey.

“That’s great. It tracks what I feel in my tummy,” said Democrat Rice.

“People are responding to our message,” said Foreman, a state representative from Wenatchee.

But Republican Norm Maleng and Democrat Gary Locke doubt the poll is accurate.

“It isn’t consistent with any other poll I’ve seen,” said Maleng, King County prosecutor. “It’s interesting, but not really meaningful.”

“We think this is an anomaly,” said Sheryl Hutchison, a spokeswoman for the Locke campaign. “We’re ahead in other polls.”

Even though he thinks the poll is correct in showing him at the top of the Republican field and outpacing Maleng, Foreman said he doubts that Rice is so far ahead of Locke or that Republican state Sen. Pam Roach is close behind him.

Roach, however, said she isn’t surprised because “I’ve been coming up in other polls.”

The poll of 568 likely primary voters threw the crowded race into spin overdrive Thursday after a KING-TV reporter asked candidates about the survey at a gubernatorial forum.

Although candidates and their staffs reacted vigorously to being a few percentage points ahead or behind, the political analyst who conducted the poll said those numbers aren’t the key thing.

Both races are close, with the GOP race essentially a dead heat, said Del Ali of Political/Media Research, which conducted the poll.

“Any of them could do something that could win or lose the race,” Ali said.

Although Rice leads Locke by 9 percentage points in the poll, the race “is probably much closer than it appears on paper,” he cautioned. The margin of error is 4.2 percent - so subtract that number from Rice’s total, add a like amount to Locke’s total and, voila, a tie.

One thing the Democratic frontrunners have going for them is they are better known than the Republicans, Ali said.

Seven voters out of eight recognized Rice’s name and four of five knew Locke’s. Even Jay Inslee, a former congressman who ranked third among Democrats in the poll, was better known than the Republican field.

About one voter in three didn’t recognize Maleng or Foreman, while Roach, former State Sen. Ellen Craswell and Tacoma attorney Jim Waldo had even less name identification. All have been campaigning for a year or more.

“It tells me that the governor’s race isn’t as high-profile in Washington as other states around the country,” Ali said.

The lack of recognition in the Republican race could be an advantage for a candidate like Craswell, who has strong support from the Christian Conservative wing of the Republican Party.

“Around the country, moderate Republicans are not energized on the national or state level,” said Ali, who conducts polls in all 50 states. “The Christian Conservative voters will show up.”

In Republican primaries in other states, candidates supported by that wing of the party have won. Usually, though, they have large amounts of money to spend on television commercials in the closing days of the campaign.

Craswell has said she will rely on her grass-roots organization and not advertise on television. Her campaign is spending much of its time registering new voters and drawing apathetic voters back into politics.

“In a regular year, that wouldn’t work,” Ali said. “In a year like this, it might.”

Craswell, who is often described as the presumed front-runner, said she was surprised by the poll because it seemed to indicate she was losing support.

“I’ve seen nothing to indicate that,” she said. “We’ve never put a lot of confidence in polls, good ones or bad ones. We’ve seen them say one thing one day and another thing the next.”

Whether they agreed or disagreed with the poll, candidates said they didn’t plan to let it change their strategy for the final five days of the primary campaign.

Foreman said he’ll keep offering specific answers to voters’ questions. Rice and Locke will continue with their trips around the state and campaign ads. Maleng will continue his efforts to prove he’s the logical alternative to Craswell.

Roach will proceed with a lastminute radio and television campaign to convince Republicans she can win in November.

“The name Roach will stick when they hear it, and we’re going on the air with it,” she said. “People do remember the name.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Rice pops to front of governor race

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