Taking advantage of a heftier campaign chest and a redrawn 2nd Congressional District that is now more heavily Republican, GOP candidate Chris Stewart has cruised to a 2-1 lead over Democrat Jay Seegmiller.
Stewart is favored by 55 percent of likely voters compared to 28 percent for Seegmiller, 5 percent for others and 12 percent who are undecided, according to a new poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research for The Salt Lake Tribune.
2nd Congressional District
The newly redrawn district includes all of Democratic-leaning Salt Lake City, but then sweeps it in with decidedly Republican areas — from southern Davis County all the way down the western side of the state to St. George.
For a map of the district, go to the State Elections Office and click on the designated district.
"We’re grateful for that, but we’re not taking anything for granted. We’re just going to keep working up to Tuesday," Election Day, said Stewart, a novelist and former Air Force pilot who is president of the Shipley Group, a security consulting company.
He attributes his lead to a combination of how "the issues we have talked about have resonated with voters," plus "it is a fairly conservative or Republican district," and "Mitt Romney is an adopted son of Utah and that’s probably helping all of the [Republican] candidates in the state."
Seegmiller, a former Utah House member and an Amtrak conductor, has acknowledged being the underdog in the race.
"I’m not terribly surprised at the results, with the makeup of the district," he said. "I think if people would have had a chance to learn a little about the candidates, it may have been a little closer. I’m afraid too many people don’t know much about either one of us."
The poll also shows that voters indeed may know little about the pair.
Before respondents were asked for whom they would vote in the race, it questioned if they had heard of Stewart and Seegmiller.
A quarter of respondents did not recognize Seegmiller’s name, and 51 percent said they heard of him but had neither a favorable nor unfavorable opinion of him. Also, 16 percent — or one of every six — did not recognize Stewart’s name either (while 42 percent recognized it, but had a neutral opinion).
That likely results in large part from the contest being overshadowed by the $10 million spent in the hot 4th Congressional District race between Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and Republican Mia Love. That dwarfs spending in the 2nd District, where Stewart raised $390,685, four times more than the $98,264 raised by Seegmiller.
"I haven’t noticed any ads at all" for the 2nd District race, said Kathy Johnson, who lives in Bountiful. "All I’ve seen were some fliers left on my porch" by both candidates, plus some lawn signs. "You can’t help seeing ads for that other race" between Love and Matheson.
Johnson, one of the respondents to the Tribune poll, said, "I will probably vote for Stewart." Why? "Because I’m a Republican."
She said Stewart being a Republican is the main edge she sees between the two after reading their fliers.
"That shows the challenge that a minority party faces in a state that is overwhelmingly Republican," said Kelly Patterson, a political science professor at Brigham Young University. He adds that in situations when voters don’t know much about candidates, party affiliation becomes an important guide for them.
Democrats have charged that the GOP-controlled Legislature redrew the 2nd District after the 2010 Census to make it much more Republican in hopes of unseating Democrat Matheson — whose home is in the 2nd. When Matheson saw how Republican the district became, he decided to bolt and run in the new 4th District instead.
Democrats say the redrawn 2nd District is 65 percent Republican, while Republicans estimate it at 60 percent (while the parties say the new 4th District is 59 percent to 62 percent GOP). "Republicans were helped in all of the districts by redistricting," Patterson said.
Seegmiller said the partisan makeup of the district makes it difficult for candidates of either party to raise money.
"Everybody figures the outcome is predetermined," he said.
The poll of 625 voters in the 2nd District was conducted between Monday and Wednesday. Its margin of error is 4 percentage points, plus or minus.
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