A new poll has Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown 20 points ahead of Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler among likely Democratic primary voters in the Maryland governor’s race.
Among those likely to vote in June’s primary, 41 percent said they’d vote for Brown, 21 percent for Gansler and 5 percent for Montgomery County Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park, with 33 percent still undecided.
Brown campaign manager Justin Schall said the campaign was pleased with the results, but there’s a lot of hard work ahead.
“We’re not going to take anything for granted,” Schall said.
Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies questioned 819 registered Maryland voters who said they’re likely to vote in the 2014 general election, as well as 403 registered Democrats likely to vote in the June primary.
The poll was done Oct. 1 through Oct. 14.
No data were provided on the Republican gubernatorial candidates — Del. Ronald A. George, Harford County Executive David R. Craig and Charles Lollar of Charles County, the past Maryland state director of Americans for Prosperity.
Forty percent of primary voters had a favorable opinion of Brown, while 4 percent had an unfavorable view, 38 percent were neutral and 18 percent didn’t recognize the name.
For Gansler, 24 percent of voters had a favorable opinion, 4 percent unfavorable, 35 percent were neutral and 37 percent didn’t recognize the name.
Gansler campaign spokesman Bob Wheelock said it’s not surprising that Gansler’s name recognition isn’t higher, despite him serving in statewide office for nearly eight years.
“I think if you went to most states, people couldn’t tell you who their attorney general is,” he said.
It also makes sense that Brown has higher name recognition, since his picture — along with Gov. Martin O’Malley’s — is in the lobby of every state government building, Wheelock said.
He noted that the poll concluded on Oct. 14, the day Gansler announced Prince George’s County Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly as his running mate. Wheelock predicted that many undecided voters would get to know Gansler as he and Ivey travel around the state.
“The poll indicates that may voters are undecided, and we know that,” Wheelock said.
Geoffrey Skelley, an analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, agreed that Gansler’s lack of recognition likely isn’t a problem for now.
“Maybe 37 percent is a little high, especially among Democrats, but I’m not particularly shocked by that,” he said.
People in most states recognize the governor’s name, but “you lose a lot of people after that,” Skelley said.
Still, Gansler’s name recognition was “surprisingly low,” said Todd Eberly, a professor of political science at St. Mary’s College.
Eberly said the good news for Gansler is that he has about $5 million he can spend to make sure voters know his name by the June 24, 2014, primary.
“Between now and June, [with] $5 million, he has all the time in the world to make up this difference,” Eberly said.
Gansler’s campaign took a hit this week after stories in The Washington Post claimed he ordered Maryland State Police troopers who serve as his drivers to run red lights and use lights and sirens to avoid traffic jams. Gansler has said the allegations are untrue.
Gansler also was criticized in August after he was recorded saying Brown was relying on his race to appeal to voters.
There’s plenty of time before the primary, but the early problems in the race have pretty much all happened to Gansler, Skelley said.
A candidate who is running behind needs the negative stories to be about the front-runner, he said.
There’s no doubt the Brown campaign saw the reckless-driving allegations as a chance to define Gansler in voters’ minds, a move Gansler’s campaign has to counter, Eberly said.
While Gansler made an early splash with the announcement of his fundraising advantage, the momentum in the campaign has clearly shifted to Brown, he said.
“Nobody looks at this race now and thinks Gansler is the favorite.”