CARSON CITY -- Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and former U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval would be in a dead heat if the 2010 race for governor were held today, according to a poll commissioned by the Review-Journal.
Republican Sandoval and Goodman, a registered Democrat who has been talking about running as an independent, each received 33 percent of the vote in the telephone poll of 500 registered Nevada voters conducted Tuesday through Thursday.
The poll also found Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid, a Democrat, would draw 25 percent of the votes and finish last in this three-man race. Nine percent were undecided.
"I am seriously considering running," said Goodman, who would have to change his registration to nonpartisan by year's end.
Goodman said the state is experiencing serious financial problems and, at age 70, he must do a lot of soul searching before running for governor.
"I am very encouraged," Sandoval said of the poll results, which also show him well ahead in a Republican primary as well as beating Reid heads up should Goodman decide against running.
"There is a lot of work to do," Sandoval said. "I have been in the race for only three weeks."
Sandoval said he can't be concerned now about Goodman or Reid, but must focus instead on developing his stances on the issues and making public appearances.
Reid's press secretary, Mike Trask, said Reid will formally announce Wednesday that he is running for governor.
"He will offer a fresh vision for Nevada," Trask said. "It will be the type of vision the state has not seen before and certainly not the type offered by any of our opponents."
Brad Coker, managing partner of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., the Washington, D.C.-based firm that conducted the poll, said the results show the timing might be right for Goodman to become governor.
"Goodman is the wild card in this thing," Coker said. "The Republicans were out of favor at this time last year, and the Democrats are falling out of favor now. People want an independent. Goodman, with his street cred and popularity across party lines, fits right into this race."
That said, Coker noted the election is more than a year away and much could change.
In taking the poll, Mason-Dixon made sure the number of Democrats, Republicans and independents surveyed reflected their percentages of the statewide voter totals. About a third of those surveyed were from rural Nevada and Washoe County, which also reflects their percentages of the voter totals. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
In a separate poll question, the survey found Sandoval would wallop incumbent Gov. Jim Gibbons in the Republican primary next June. Forty-one percent of poll respondents preferred Sandoval to 20 percent for Gibbons.
Former North Las Vegas Mayor Michael Montandon would get just 4 percent of the Republican primary vote; 35 percent were undecided. This question carried a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.
If Goodman does not run, Sandoval would beat Reid 50 percent to 33 percent, with 17 percent undecided, according to another question.
And should Sandoval be beaten in the GOP primary, the poll shows Reid would take the election by 12 points over Gibbons, 49 percent to 37 percent.
In a three-way race between Goodman, Reid and Gibbons, the mayor comes out on top with 36 percent of the vote. Reid would get 27 percent and Gibbons 24 percent.
Coker noted that the poll found Goodman was rated favorably by 49 percent of those surveyed, compared with just 9 percent who look at him unfavorably. No other major politician had favorable rankings as high, although Sandoval also scored well, with 38 percent favorable and 7 percent unfavorable ratings.
Coker said Rory Reid could be hurt because of the unpopularity of his father, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and the fact both would be on the same ballot in November 2010 as the senior Reid seeks another Senate term.
Rory Reid received a 21 percent favorable, 29 percent unfavorable recognition rating in the survey.
"I think people are averse to voting for dynasties," Coker said. "I don't know how people can vote for two members of the same family at the same ballot."
Gibbons has no chance of beating Sandoval or winning re-election next year, Coker said.
"Gibbons is dead because Gibbons is dead," he said. "You could run Mickey Mouse against him and Mickey would win."
The poll showed just 14 percent of Nevadans view the governor favorably.
But Robert Olmer, Gibbons' campaign manager, noted Barack Obama was trailing in the polls a year before the presidential election.
He said Gibbons has had to make difficult budget decisions because of the recession and, in time, voters will realize his anti-tax stances are correct.
"It is so early in the campaign," Olmer said. "It is the voters who vote who decide who wins, not what a poll shows."
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.