Election 2018GovernorNews

Poll shows Polis with narrow lead over Kennedy in Democratic gubernatorial field

Author: Ernest Luning - March 28, 2018 - Updated: April 5, 2018

Cary Kennedy Jared PolisFrom left: Colorado gubernatorial candidates U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and Cary Kennedy (The Gazette/Colorado Politics file photos)

DENVER — U.S. Rep. Jared Polis holds a slight lead over former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy in Colorado’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, according to a survey released Tuesday by Republican polling firm Magellan Strategies, although more than one-third of voters remain undecided with just over three months to go until votes are counted.

Twenty-seven percent of voters surveyed said they would vote for Polis in the June 26 primary, and 23 percent picked Kennedy. Two other candidates lagged in single digits: former state Sen. Mike Johnston with 8 percent support and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne the choice of 5 percent. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed said they were undecided.

The firm surveyed 410 Democratic and unaffiliated voters considered likely to vote in the upcoming primary for the poll, which has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.84 percent. It was conducted March 20-23 using live interviews.

Magellan, which isn’t working for any of the gubernatorial campaigns this cycle, released a poll at the beginning of March showing State Treasurer Walker Stapleton leading Attorney General Cynthia Coffman 26-13 in the GOP primary with 39 percent undecided.

Serving his fifth term and of the wealthiest members of Congress, Polis has been considered the front-runner as the race gears up, but pollster David Flaherty said in a polling memo that the survey’s results “change that story, with Cary Kennedy emerging from the pack of Polis challengers” following her win in a statewide preference poll conducted at the March 6 precinct caucuses.

Polis led by 11 points among men in the Magellan poll but finished 1 point behind Kennedy among women, who typically make up 60 percent of the Democratic primary electorate, Flaherty noted. He had a 13-point lead among self-described moderate voters, while Kennedy held the lead among “very liberal” voters by 7 points. Among unaffiliated voters — who will be able to cast ballots in this year’s primary for the fist time — Polis held a commanding 23-point lead, although the pollster cautioned against reading too much into that number because the sample size for that group was small, accounting for just 13 percent of those surveyed. Kennedy led Polis by 9 points among Hispanic voters.

The primary ballot has yet to be finalized. Polis, Johnston and Lynne have all submitted nominating petitions in a bid to get on the primary ballot — and Johnston is so far the only gubernatorial candidate in either party to qualify for the primary. Kennedy is the only Democrat pursuing a spot on the ballot solely through the state assembly, which takes place in Broomfield on April 14. Polis and Johnston have both said they’ll compete with her there.

Meanwhile, an internal poll conducted for the Kennedy campaign and obtained by Colorado Politics showed Kennedy prevailing over Stapleton with a 15-point margin, 55-40 with 5 percent undecided. The poll also showed Polis winning a hypothetic general election contest against Stapleton by 7 points, 50-43, with 6 percent undecided.. Conducted by Keating Research, a Democratic firm, the poll surveyed 1,000 registered voters — 500 for each match-up — between March 13-19 with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.4 percent, pollster Chris Keating said.

A spokesman for the Stapleton campaign declined to comment specifically on Kennedy’s internal poll but dismissed the results, saying the polling sample ignored historic turnout models that have Republicans voting in greater numbers than Democrats in midterm elections and thus yielded results more favorable for the Democrats.

While Republicans typically have a 5- or 6-point turnout advantage over Democrats in Colorado midterm elections, Keating told Colorado Politics, he was projecting just a 1-point advantage among GOP voters because of the unusually high enthusiasm he’s measured among Democrats as well as a nearly unprecedented swing toward Democratic turnout in Colorado’s municipal elections last fall and in recent special elections across the country.

A Polis campaign spokeswoman declined to comment on the Magellan poll but applauded the results of the Keating survey.

“I am glad to see that Jared is resoundingly beating the Republican front runner,” Mara Sheldon, the Polis campaign’s communications director, told Colorado Politics. “Jared Polis is the only Democratic candidate to have won statewide and never lost. While it is suspicious for there to only be 6 percent undecided for an election that is more than eight months away, I’m confident Jared will be strongest candidate in November.”

Kennedy’s deputy campaign manager embraced the results of both polls.

“We’re seeing that the more voters get to know Cary, the more they like her,” Serena Woods said. “These two polls show her strength in both the primary and general elections. This momentum will continue to build.”

A Johnston campaign spokeswoman also pointed to her candidate’s momentum.

“We’re excited to be in the midst of such a competitive race and are gaining momentum day by day,” Grace Hanover told Colorado Politics in a statement. “As a campaign, we will continue to work to get Mike’s message of inclusion and progress out to the people of Colorado.”

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.


  • Drew Kerin

    March 28, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    It is ironic, that the party that rails against the 1%, is so eager to embrace one of them as their gubernatorial candidate. What hypocrites!

    • Randy Wheelock

      March 29, 2018 at 9:38 pm

      The 1%, like the rest of us, are not innately bad by virtue of their economic status. But to build a government and society that favors them intentionally to tilt the playing field even further in their favor is sick. That has been the domain of the majority of the GOP, and antithetical to Jared Polis’ positions over the years.

      I don’t agree with him on anything, but if we look to a fair society, he is on a good track. I like him.

  • RCJ

    March 28, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    Cary Kennedy has continuously emphasized the importance of education and the need for adequately funding it in this state. Since the 2016 election, people are seeing the effect that a poor education has on American citizens. Being uneducated creates a population that makes terrible choices. Hopefully, this November, Colorado can show that they have an educated voting base and we can make the state resoundingly blue up and down the ballot.

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