Bluegrass Poll: Conway, Heiner lead in governor’s race

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Louisville businessman Hal Heiner leads the crowded race for the Republican party’s nominee for Kentucky’s next governor who would then likely take on Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway, according to a new Bluegrass Poll.

With just over two months before Kentuckians head to the polls to decide which Democrat and Republican will square off in the governor’s race, a new Bluegrass Poll finds the tightest race is among Republicans. The poll — conducted for WKYT-TV, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Louisville Courier-Journal, and WHAS-TV — asked 2,200 adults about the battle to replace term-limited Gov. Steve Beshear.

The Bluegrass Poll found Heiner the choice of 28 percent of likely Republican voters. Heiner, a former member of the Louisville Metro Council who lost a bid for mayor in 2010, was the first to enter race for the Republican nomination. Heiner has already spent more money campaigning than any of the other candidates.

“Obviously Heiner’s head start with TV ads has propelled him into the early lead,” said WKYT political editor Bill Bryant. “For many Kentuckians, his message has been the only one out there and the race could be very fluid. It puts the other candidates in the position of playing catch up in the very expensive realm of a statewide race.”

Tied in second place among likely Republican voters are Agriculture Secretary James Comer and businessman Matt Bevin who last tangled with now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the party’s 2014 U.S. Senate primary. Former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott trails the top three Republican candidates.

One in four likely Republicans voters said they remain undecided in what's shaping up to be a tight race.

Meanwhile, Conway’s lead appears to be solid on the Democratic side. According to the poll, Conway was the choice of 61 percent of likely party voters. Retired engineer Geoff Young of Lexington trails with just 12 percent.

“Conway has the advantage of what appears to be a non-strenuous primary season and can largely focus on the fall campaign,” Bryant said. “With the numbers showing him only slightly ahead of the Republicans, he knows he will need to run a vigorous race if he’s to hold the governor’s mansion for Democratic.”

The Bluegrass Poll also looked at which Republican candidate would fare best in a head-to-head match-up with Democratic frontrunner Jack Conway. The poll found Conway leading Heiner, Comer and Bevin.

For the Bluegrass Poll, SurveyUSA interviewed 2,200 state of Kentucky adults between March 3 and March 8. Of the adults, 1,903 were registered to vote. Of the registered voters, 529 were determined by

SurveyUSA to be Republican likely voters in the May 19 primary. And 639 of the registered voters were determined to be Democrats likely to vote in the May 19 Democratic primary.

The research was conducted using blended sample, mixed mode. Respondents reachable on a home telephone were interviewed on a home telephone in the recorded voice of a professional announcer. Respondents not reachable on a home telephone were shown a questionnaire on their smartphone, tablet or other electronic device.

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