Poll: Dislike for incumbents not affecting these races

CARSON CITY -- The state treasurer's race remains a tossup, but the incumbents holding other constitutional offices are heading for apparent victories in Tuesday's general election, according to a poll conducted for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and 8NewsNow.

Democratic state Treasurer Kate Marshall and her Republican challenger, Steve Martin, are in a virtual tie, with 39 percent of respondents favoring her and 38 percent favoring him, according to the Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. poll. A total of 625 registered Nevada voters were interviewed by telephone Monday through Wednesday.

Since the poll has a plus or minus 4 percentage point margin of error, the race could go either way.

But even though 2011 has been predicted to be a Republican year, the poll found that the rest of the incumbents, including Democrats, could end up with major victories in races for constitutional offices.

■ Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki leads Democrat Jessica Sferrazza 53 percent to 32 percent in his race for re-election.

■ Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller holds a 49 percent to 31 percent lead over Republican Rob Lauer in his bid for a second term.

■ Democratic Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto has opened a 44 percent to 31 percent lead over Republican Travis Barrick, with 9 percent of the respondents backing Independent American Party candidate Joel Hansen.

■ Democratic state Controller Kim Wallin holds a 38 percent to 32 percent lead over Republican Barry Herr.

Nonetheless, Brad Coker, the managing partner for Mason-Dixon, expects 2011 will go down as an "anti-incumbent, pro-Republican" election, and that could mean Marshall is toppled from office.

"If the Republican turnout goes through the roof," then Martin might grind out a narrow victory in the treasurer's race, he said.

The Wallin-Herr race also could be closer than the 6 percentage point difference, he said.

But Krolicki is virtually guaranteed of re-election as lieutenant governor since he is a Republican running in a Republican year, according to Coker.

Democrats Miller and Masto have such big leads and come from such well-known families that they should win easily even if far more Republicans vote than Democrats, he added.

Miller is the son of former Gov. Bob Miller, while Masto's father was the late Clark County Commissioner Manny Cortez.

Treasurer Marshall said she was confident about winning re-election.

"So far the Democrats are turning out," Marshall said. "It depends on turnout. I feel good. I feel strong. I have consistently saved the state money and cut costs. I have executed the plan I proposed."

Martin said his own polls show him beating Marshall by 1 percentage point.

"The independent vote will make the difference," Martin said. "We also will be helped if the Republican vote is up (higher than the Democrat vote)."

The Mason-Dixon poll found independents favored Martin over Marshall, 35 percent to 33 percent. Twelve percent of poll respondents said they were still undecided.

The Martin-Miller race has been shifting back and forth throughout the campaign. In August, a Mason-Dixon poll found Marshall up by 7 percentage points. A month later the pollster found Martin ahead by 5 percentage points.

Secretary of State Miller said his 18 percentage point lead shows that the public "values the fact I treat the office as a nonpartisan office."

"I have a record of responsibility and accountability and getting results in this office," Miller added.

He expects a lot of Republicans will pick him over Lauer, who faces a misdemeanor criminal trial over a complaint filed by a Republican woman who claimed she was hurt when Lauer showed her self-defense holds. Lauer also was arrested several years ago in an incident over his online sale of an airplane.

But Lauer maintains he can still win because he expects 8 percent to 10 percent more Republicans will vote than Democrats.

He added Miller "lost himself 5 points" during a news conference Wednesday when he responded about allegations of fraudulent voting.

"Nevada has become a national scandal," Lauer said. "We are going to win. Our voters are enthusiastic."

Like Lauer, Democrat Sferrazza still expects to win Tuesday, despite the poll showing a 21 percentage point gap between her and Krolicki.

"Our internal polls show something entirely different," she said. "I believe people are responding to my message."

Krolicki said he is taking nothing for granted, despite his large lead.

"I will continue to campaign hard through Nevada Day weekend," he said. "It is gratifying that Nevadans strongly appreciate the hard work our team has done, especially on economic development and tourism."

Masto's campaign manager Erin Bilbray called the attorney general's 13 percentage point lead great news.

"We are still working hard," Bilbray said. "We have a team of volunteers making phone calls right now."

The Democratic Party is organized and working to make sure Democrats vote in Tuesday's election, she said.

Republican Barrick acknowledged there is a "distinct possibility" he could lose since Attorney General Masto has a big lead.

"Losing is not pleasurable by any means, but nobody expected me to win," said Barrick, adding that even Hansen wanted him to drop out of the race.

Barrick, however, said he gained a lot of name recognition and that he intends to run again for attorney general in four years.

Masto's advertisement that pointed out he had been arrested and spent 45 days in jail for protesting at a San Diego area abortion clinic in 1989 helped his campaign, Barrick added.

Controller Wallin was pleased she has opened a 6 percentage point lead over Herr.

She pointed out her margin has been picking up slightly in all Mason-Dixon polls since summer. In July, a Mason-Dixon poll had her just 2 percentage points ahead.

"This race shouldn't be about what party you belong to, but if you are the best qualified for the job," said Wallin, pointing out all major newspapers have backed her. "There are a lot of undecided (18 percent) but my message is getting out."

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.