Poll: Dabakis leading SLC Mayor’s race; Cox and Huntsman frontrunners in 2020 gubernatorial contest

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Former Sen. Jim Dabakis has a double-digit lead in the race to replace Jackie Biskupski as Salt Lake City Mayor according to a new survey.

The Salt Lake Chamber’s quarterly Utah Outlook survey of likely voters in Salt Lake City finds Dabakis leading the field of prospective candidates ahead of the August 13 primary election. A quarter of respondents say they “don’t know.”

According to the survey:

  • Jim Dabakis – 30%
  • Sen. Luz Escamilla – 15%
  • Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall – 12%
  • David Ibarra – 8%
  • David Garbett – 5%
  • Councilman Stan Penfold – 5%
  • Don’t know – 25%

The survey only polled 149 likely voters in Salt Lake City, which gives it a large margin of error. That suggests Escamilla, Mendenhall and Ibarra are likely in a statistical tie for second place, with the rest of the field bringing up the rear. The survey was conducted between June 11 and July 1, so the playing field may have shifted it the last month.

The top two candidates in the nonpartisan primary head to the November general election. 

Dabakis is the frontrunner in the race likely because of his high name ID, but with nearly a quarter undecided, the race for the top-two slots is still very much in the air.

The survey also tested the 2020 Utah gubernatorial field, including the possible candidacy of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr.

The poll asked, “If the 2020 election for governor were held today and the candidates were the following, for whom would you vote?” Huntsman and current Lt. Governor Spencer Cox are essentially tied in their level of support.

  • Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox – 33%
  • Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. – 32%
  • The Democratic nominee – 11%
  • Former Speaker Greg Hughes – 5%
  • Former Republican Party Chair Thomas Wright – 5%
  • Councilwoman Aimee Winder-Newton – 2%
  • Don’t know – 13%

The results include both Republicans and Democrats, but just registered Republicans will be voting in the Republican primary race next year.

The survey did not include Provo businessman Jeff Burningham who is currently traveling the state ahead of the expected launch of his 2020 gubernatorial campaign. The poll also did not include Rep. Rob Bishop who may jump into this race next year after declining to run for a 10th term in Congress next year. Another omission is Attorney General Sean Reyes, who is also said to be considering a run. The survey did include former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, but he was dropped from the results after announcing he would not run for governor as the poll was being conducted. Cox is the only declared candidate in the race.

The poll also measured the 2020 governor’s race if it were a three-way race between Huntsman, Cox and Hughes. Huntsman comes out with a clear lead here.

  • Huntsman – 43%
  • Cox – 37%
  • Hughes – 8%
  • Don’t know – 12%

A head-to-head matchup between Cox and Huntsman broken down by party affiliation finds Cox gets more support from Republicans (45-34%), while Huntsman is favored by Democrats (58-24%) and independents (58-32%).

“The most popular Democratic candidate for governor in 2020 is not a Democrat,” said Natalie Gochnour, the Chamber’s chief economist.

“Former Gov. Huntsman looks like he would be the favorite to win the election in 2020, but could he get to a general election?” said Chamber president and CEO Derek Miller. “These numbers say no, so he may have to change his strategy if he decides to get into the race.”

In another wrinkle, the survey tested the level of opposition for several potential candidates in the 2020 race, asking “Of those candidates, for whom are you least likely to vote?”

  • The Democratic nominee – 28%
  • Hughes – 15%
  • Huntsman – 11%
  • Wright – 10%
  • Winder-Newton – 10%
  • Cox – 6%
  • Don’t know 19%

Among Republicans in the survey, the eventual Democratic nominee generates the most opposition at 42%. Huntsman is next with 13% of Republicans saying he is the least likely candidate to get their vote, followed by Newton (11%), Hughes (8%), Wright (6%) and Cox (4%).

The poll was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates for the Chamber. It has a margin of error of +/- 3%.