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Poll says Heller padding lead against Democrat

RENO — First-term Rep. Dean Heller has opened up a lead over Democratic challenger Jill Derby, according to a poll released Wednesday.

Heller, R-Nev., had the support of 48 percent of the 400 likely voters surveyed in Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District compared with Derby’s 41 percent. Two percent favored another candidate, and 9 percent were undecided.

The poll was conducted Friday through Monday for the Reno Gazette-Journal and Channel 2 by Research 2000. It had a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

A similar August poll found Heller with 47 percent and Derby with 42 percent, within the margin of error.

The latest poll was conducted just after Heller became the only member of Nevada’s congressional delegation to vote against the $700 billion rescue plan for the financial industry.

The poll found both candidates have positive favorability ratings but Derby has less name recognition.

Forty-six percent said they had a favorable opinion of Heller, compared with 44 percent for Derby. Heller’s unfavorable rating was 38 percent, while Derby’s was 32 percent.

The poll found Heller’s numbers were much better in the largely rural district than Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s.

The survey also showed Derby is facing a challenge among female voters.

Of the women surveyed, 45 percent support Heller compared with 43 percent who back Derby. Heller also has a slight lead among independent voters.

In 2006, Heller defeated Derby by 50 percent to 46 percent. But Democrats have cut into Republicans’ voter registration lead in the district since that election.

According to the Nevada secretary of state’s office, the district had 175,718 registered Republicans and 149,840 registered Democrats in September. It also had 57,020 registered nonpartisans.

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