Poll shows attorney general, comptroller incumbents in the lead CAMPAIGN 1994

September 30, 1994|By Robert Timberg | Robert Timberg,Sun Staff Writer

Democrat J. Joseph Curran Jr. retains a solid lead over Richard D. Bennett in the Maryland attorney general's race, but the Republican challenger has narrowed the gap and may be in position to mount a charge in the final six weeks of the campaign, a new poll shows.

The poll found Mr. Curran is leading Mr. Bennett by 20 percentage points, 47 percent to 27 percent.

But the margin was greater in a similar poll in late August. At that time, Mr. Curran, who is seeking a third consecutive four-year term as attorney general, was running 25 points ahead of Mr. Bennett, a former federal prosecutor.

Slightly more than one-quarter of the survey sample, 26 percent, were undecided, indicating that a large number of voters are still up for grabs.

In the race for state comptroller, Louis L. Goldstein, a Democrat who has held the post for the past 36 years, holds a commanding 55 percent to 26 percent lead over his little-known GOP rival, Timothy R. Mayberry of Boonsboro in Western Maryland.

The poll was conducted by Mason-Dixon Political Media Research Inc. of Columbia for The Sun and other news organizations. The firm surveyed 829 randomly selected registered voters by phone Wednesday through Friday of last week. All said they vote regularly in state elections.

L The margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Mr. Curran was outdistancing Mr. Bennett in nearly all sections of the state, according to the poll. The lone exception was rural Western Maryland, where Republicans -- who face a 2-to-1 disadvantage in voter registration statewide -- traditionally have run well.

The poll showed Mr. Curran especially strong in the state's heaviest voting jurisdictions -- Baltimore City, Baltimore County,

Prince George's County and Montgomery County. His support from black voters, moreover, was overwhelming -- 69 percent to 2 percent for Mr. Bennett.

For Mr. Bennett, targets of opportunity reside in the large number of undecided voters in Baltimore County and Montgomery County. Both subdivisions have demonstrated a willingness in the past to support Republicans.

Dick Leggitt, a Bennett spokesman, pronounced himself "ecstatic" at the poll results, saying that they displayed consistent growth by Mr. Bennett since the beginning of the year.

He also noted that Mr. Bennett, who had no opposition in the primary, has so far aired only one week of television commercials.

The campaign has $300,000 in the bank and is raising enough to mount an effective TV advertising effort as the campaign moves into high gear, Mr. Leggitt said.

"We're going to do hand-to-hand combat with Joe Curran in Baltimore County and Montgomery County," Mr. Leggitt said.

Mr. Curran called the poll results encouraging. "But I'm certainly not letting up," he said. "Hard work is absolutely the only thing that assures success."

He said that as a result of his contested primary, he has less than $100,000 on hand, but expects his current fund-raising efforts will allow him to spend between $300,000 and $400,000 in his campaign against Mr. Bennett.

Marvin A. Bond, a spokesman for Mr. Goldstein, said of the poll, "People across the state know the name and the product and have expressed confidence in that product for many years. And it looks like they still have confidence in that product."

Dee Richards, a spokeswoman for Mr. Mayberry, said the challenge for the GOP comptroller nominee is to increase his name recognition and to familiarize voters with his plan to save the state $200 million by reforming the comptroller's office.

The poll showed that 60 percent of the respondents had never heard of Mr. Mayberry.

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