SALT LAKE CITY — The Republican race for the 1st District U.S. House seat is still up for grabs, according to the latest poll in the contest.
Bob Stevenson and Blake Moore lead in the four-way race for the GOP nomination, with support of around 16% each, according to poll results released Thursday. Kerry Gibson comes next with 13% support, followed by Katie Witt with 7% backing.
Dwarfing all of them, though, are voters who are undecided, who don’t yet have a preference, representing 48% of poll respondents.
“The election to replace outgoing Congressman Rob Bishop appears to have narrowed, but voters remain largely undecided as ballots hit mailboxes across the district,” reads a press release from Election Hive, which is working with the Moore campaign and released the poll results.
Bob Hunter, director of the Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service at Weber State University, said the poll results indicate the race among the GOPers is tighter than previous surveys indicated.
“If this poll is accurate, it looks like we have a close race with multiple candidates. The large number of ‘undecided’ responses makes the race unpredictable, especially with mail-in ballots now in the voters’ hands,” Hunter said. Mail-in ballots were sent to voters earlier this week and have started arriving at their homes.
The poll, commissioned by the Moore campaign, was conducted by Dan Jones and Associates, a subsidiary of the Cicero Group, Moore’s employer, the statement noted. Moore, it continued, “was recused from any involvement in poll gathering.”
Still, the connection between Dan Jones and Associates and Cicero drew a jab from Stevenson’s campaign manager, Dave Hansen.
“I would be very surprised if Blake Moore, who doesn’t even live in the 1st Congressional District but lives on the east side of Salt Lake City, would be doing well in a poll unless, as in this case, the poll had not been done by his employer,” said Hansen. Though he now lives outside the 1st District in Salt Lake City, Moore grew up in Ogden, within the district, and he has said he maintains deep roots in the city.
Likewise, the poll drew a skeptical response from Witt campaign spokesman Sean Bartley.
“All the polls in this race are pretty sketchy and seem to be an attempt to manipulate people because they’re released by candidates to benefit themselves or have a margin of error you could drive a Mack truck through,” said Bartley.
The Gibson campaign, meantime, took the results as an indicator that Gibson’s message is sinking in.
“This poll by one of our opponents confirms that at 16%, 16% and 13% with a margin of error of 5% there is a three-way tie among the top three candidates,” the Gibson campaign statement said. “Kerry’s conservative message is clearly starting to resonate, and we are confident that as the large number of undecided voters of the 1st district continue to learn more about Kerry’s proven conservative track record, they will select him to be their next congressman.”
U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, a Brigham City Republican, currently holds the 1st District seat, which covers Weber County, the northern half of Davis County and eight other counties in northern and northeastern Utah. He’s not seeking reelection to the seat, though, which has spurred a lively campaign among his would-be successors. Aside from the four Republicans, two Democrats are also running, Darren Parry and Jamie Cheek. The candidates meet in their respective primaries on June 30, with the winners from each primary to face off on Nov. 3.
The poll results reflect a notable shift from a poll released May 22 by UtahPolicy.com and KUTV 2 News that showed Stevenson, a Davis County commissioner, with the lead. Stevenson garnered 38% backing in that poll followed by Witt, the Kaysville mayor, with 26% support. Next came Gibson, a former Weber County commissioner and Utah House member, with 20% and Moore, a management consultant in Salt Lake City, with 16%.
Moore, the only candidate among the four Republicans who hasn’t held elective office, cited his “new fresh perspective” and noted his fourth-place finish in the poll last month. “The momentum has just continued to grow,” he said.
The 1st District candidates have relied heavily on virtual campaigning and campaigning via phone given restrictions on gatherings meant to stop the spread of COVID-19. The four GOPers and two Democrats met in separate debates earlier this week on the Weber State University campus.
The 1st District leans heavily Republican.
The new poll, with a margin of error of 4.8%, was taken June 2-9 and reflects the responses of 417 likely Republican voters.