Kitzhaber, Merkley Retain Double-Digit Leads

Senator Jeff Merkley and embattled Governor John Kitzhaber are still on track to win re-election over GOP challengers.

Senator Jeff Merkley and embattled Governor John Kitzhaber are still on track to win re-election over GOP challengers.

Senator Jeff Merkley and embattled Governor John Kitzhaber are still on track to win re-election over GOP challengers.The word "corruption" and Oregon politics don't usually go together and GOP gubernatorial candidate Dennis Richardson's efforts to couple them haven't appeared to narrow Governor John Kitzhaber's double-digit lead.

Survey USA conducted a statewide poll for KATU-TV that shows Kitzhaber clinging to a 51 percent to 38 percent lead over Richardson, with only 6 percent of the electorate still undecided. The survey was conducted between October 16-19 with 561 likely voters, interviewed by both landline and cell phones.

If only men voted, the race would be tighter, as Kitzhaber holds a narrow 48 percent to 46 percent lead. But the governor seeking an unprecedented fourth term wallops Richardson among women voters by 54 percent to 30 percent.

Kitzhaber tops Richardson in the 18-34, 50-64 and 65+ categories and ties him at 45 percent each in the 35-49 cohort.

People who blame Cover Oregon on Kitzhaber typically say they will vote for Richardson' those who don't signal a vote for the incumbent governor.

The survey indicates Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley retains a commanding lead over his GOP challenger, Monica Wehby, at 53 percent to 32 percent. The race is closer among men, but a romp among women who favor Merkley by 60 percent over Wehby at 24 percent.

Survey results show Measure 91 to legalize marijuana and Measure 92 to require labeling for GMO food both have a shot at passing, with nearly identical percentages heading down the stretch. Measure 91 enjoys a 48 percent to 37 percent lead, while Measure 92 maintains a slimmer margin at 44 percent to 37 percent. More than 15 percent of likely voters said they were undecided on the measures, which could tip the final results either way. A major factor for the positive margin is the overwhelming support for both measures among younger voters, which ranges from around 70 percent for to 15 percent against.

The Richardson and Wehby candidacies reflect two more wrong turns for GOP efforts to win statewide office in Oregon. Richardson has tried to downplay social issues, without success, and Wehby has played up her moderacy on those issues, also without success among likely women and younger voters.

GOP operatives are wringing their hands over the absence of a more commanding figure in the gubernatorial race who could have capitalized on scandals that have rocked Kitzhaber and his fiancé Cylvia Hayes just as ballots were heading to mailboxes.

While earlier polls suggested Kitzhaber was vulnerable or at least may have worn out his political welcome, his polling numbers still point to a relatively comfortable re-election margin.

More scandals could still affect the final outcome, but that prospect grows slimmer by the day as Oregonians, especially those who have already made up their minds, cast ballots early.