Glendening, Bentley lead in governor's race poll CAMPAIGN 1994

June 22, 1994|By Robert Timberg | Robert Timberg,Sun Staff Writer

Parris N. Glendening has surged to a solid lead in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor, while Rep. Helen Delich Bentley continues to hold a commanding advantage among Republicans, according to a new poll of likely voters.

The poll of 818 registered voters, conducted June 16-18 by Mason-Dixon Political Media Research for The Sun and other news organizations, also shows the Prince George's County executive and the Baltimore County congresswoman running neck-and-neck when matched in a general election trial heat.

There are few obvious bright spots in the poll to encourage other candidates, aside from the significant size of the undecided vote -- 31 percent among Democrats, 39 percent for Republicans -- whichmeans large numbers of voters in both parties remain up for grabs.

Ratifying the perception of recent months that he has emerged as the clear front-runner among Democrats, Mr. Glendening leads Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg 31 percent to 21 percent. The two men have virtually flip-flopped since the last Mason-Dixon poll in February. Two other hopefuls are running well behind.

But it is nearly three months until the Sept. 13 primary. "I don't think you can hand the nomination to Glendening," said Mason-DixonPresident Brad Coker. "There are lots of hurdles yet to clear. Somebody will step forward and take him on. The question is, who will it be?"

On the Republican side, Mrs. Bentley leads two lesser-known opponents, outdistancing her closest rival by a 4-to-1 margin. But her support within the party, though substantial, may have dipped slightly.

The poll shows her dropping from 46 percent in February to 41 percent now. The gap could be accounted for by the 6.5 percentage point margin of error in the GOP survey.

In the general election match-up, Mr. Glendening outpaces Mrs. Bentley by a razor-thin margin of 37 percent to 35 percent, well within the statewide margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, thus essentially a dead heat.

Of the results, Mr. Glendening said, "Our campaign is clearly bringing people together in the state."

Said Mrs. Bentley, "I'm very pleased with the whole thing."

The survey highlights the significance of the black vote, concentrated primarily in Baltimore and in Prince George's County, with Mr. Glendening drawing heavy black support, Mrs. Bentley little.

Among white voters, Mr. Glendening draws support from only 28 percent of the statewide sample, compared with 44 percent for Mrs. Bentley and the rest undecided.

Mr. Glendening is outpacing Mrs. Bentley 43 percent to 27 percent in Montgomery County, the state's heaviest voting subdivision. Mrs. Bentley moved yesterday to slice into that lead, naming Montgomery state Sen. Howard A. Denis as her running mate.

Mr. Steinberg, the only statewide officeholder in the race, has long taken heart from the contention that he was the frontrunner, he was in the February Mason-Dixon poll. Now he trails by 10 percentage points among Democrats, an apparent reflection of his lackluster campaign to date and Mr. Glendening's growing strength.

"It looks like we've got some ground to make up," said Steinberg spokesman Dan Walter.

The poll was not all unhappy tidings for Mr. Steinberg. "Mickey's numbers aren't as bad as I thought they might be," said Mr. Coker of Mason-Dixon. "He's still holding a third of the vote in the Baltimore area, so there's still hope he may be able to revitalize his campaign."

Mr. Glendening's increased standing and name identification appears to reflect recent endorsements by Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Montgomery County Executive Neal Potter and other popular elected officials.

The three-term county executive apparently also benefited from a television commercial aired this month to introduce him to voters.

The two other major candidates in the Democratic field, state Sen. Mary H. Boergers of Montgomery County and state Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski of Baltimore, show only minimal movement since February, when support for both was in single digits.

For Mrs. Bentley's hard-working rivals, the news seems no more heartening. Maryland House Minority Leader Ellen R. Sauerbrey of Baltimore County has increased her standing among fellow Republicans by 4 percentage points, to 11 percent. The third GOP hopeful, William S. Shepard, the party's candidate for governor in 1990, remains becalmed at 9 percent.

"I am the only Republican moving in the right direction," said Mrs. Sauerbrey. "Helen is dropping, as I predicted she would."

Said Mr. Shepard, looking to claim much of the large undecided vote, "People tend to make up their minds later and later."

In one of the more striking elements of the poll, it appears that only Mr. Glendening, Mr. Steinberg and Mrs. Bentley are known to at least half the voters statewide.

That result may be a two-edged sword for Mr. Steinberg. Thirty-three percent of the statewide sample did not recognize his name, even though he has held the state's second-highest office for eight years.

As for the other candidates, Republican and Democrat, 55 percent of statewide respondents said they didn't recognize Mrs. Sauerbrey's name, the best showing among the trailing contenders. The least known was Mr. Miedusiewski: 74 percent said they had never heard of him.

Mr. Miedusiewski lamented that the poll was unable to record the full impact of his radio ad campaign against Mr. Glendening, which began midway through the three-day survey and is continuing. "I would expect my name identification to increase and Parris' unfavorable rating to increase," he said.

"Given our low name recognition,we have tremendous potential for growth," said Kevin S. Keefe, campaign manager for Ms. Boergers, unknown to 58 percent of statewide respondents.

Pollsters did not ask respondents about Democrats Lawrence K. Freeman of Baltimore, a follower of political activist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., or Don Allensworth, a former college professor from Hagerstown.

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