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OWENS, CANNON OPEN WIDE LEADS

Democrat Wayne Owens and Republican Joe Cannon are making gains in their attempts to sit in the U.S. Senate next year, the latest Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows. The two are well ahead of other Democratic or Republican opposition.

But the race is still young. The candidate filing deadline isn't until April 15, and someone else still could enter. Party caucuses are on April 27; the state conventions aren't until June.Pollster Dan Jones & Associates found in a recent poll that among all candidates Owens, the 2nd Congressional District Democratic incumbent, gets 36 percent support, while Cannon, an owner of Geneva Steel, gets 29 percent.The rest of the candidates are well back.

Businessman Doug Anderson, a Democrat, gets 4 percent; former U.S. Attorney for Utah Brent Ward, a Republican, also gets 4 percent; businessman Robert Bennett, a Republican, 3 percent; former Public Service Commissioner Ted Stewart, a Republican, 3 percent; and former Salt Lake County assessor candidate Kyle Kopitke, a Democrat, 1 percent.

Nineteen percent are undecided, Jones found.

The poll was taken March 3-4, before the U.S. House started intense debate over a check-kiting scandal of members. Owens, before the poll, admitted to writing four or five overdrafts on the House Bank. But this week, after the poll was conducted, he said he'd been informed by bank officials that he probably wrote 20 or 30 bad checks over the past year and was told about only four or five. Any political impact of those recent problems aren't reflected in the poll, and, indeed, may not make much of a difference in voters' opinions now or later.

Last October, just after Owens announced he'd jump from his U.S. House seat and try for the Senate, Jones found that among all candidates Owens had 25 percent support and Cannon 13 percent.

A poll in December showed that Owens' support had risen to 32 percent, Cannon's to 16 percent.

Over the past several months, Cannon has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV advertisements, so it's not surprising he's risen 13 percentage points in the March poll.

In fact, Cannon had spent $1.5 million - much of it his own money - on his campaign through December, the third greatest expenditure on a Senate race in the United States, records show.

In a Republican primary, in which anyone can vote, Cannon is dominant. Jones found that 48 percent would vote for Cannon, 9 percent for Ward, 6 percent for Bennett and 5 percent for Stewart. Twenty-six percent were undecided Jones found.

Among those who told Jones they are Republicans, Cannon did even better. Fifty-seven percent of the Republicans said they'd vote for Cannon in a GOP primary, 8 percent said Ward, 5 percent named Stewart and 3 percent named Bennett. Twenty-six percent of Republicans were undecided, Jones found.

Owens is even more dominant in a Democratic primary - 55 percent of all voters said they'd vote for Owens, 12 percent said Anderson, and 2 percent said Kopitke. Twenty-one percent were undecided, Jones found.

Among those who said they are Democrats, Owens' support is awesome. Seventy-five percent said they'd vote for Owens, 13 percent said Anderson, and 3 percent said Kopitke. Only 7 percent of the Democrats were undecided, Jones found.

Republican leaders still must deal with Owens' general appeal. After months of being pounded by Stewart and Ward - who have been especially tough on Owens - Owens still gets 22 percent of the Republican vote, Jones found.

Still, the latest poll shows that - at least between Owens and Cannon - the Senate race is wide open. Not only do both fall below 50 percent of the vote, they both fall below 40 percent support.

The challenge for Owens and Cannon now is to get 70 percent support in their respective state conventions, thus eliminating all other candidates and avoiding long and expensive primary campaigns. If they do, the two could go at each other - and spend their millions - from June until November.

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(Poll)

Deseret News/KSL-TV poll

Which candidate for U.S. Senate would you most likely support if the election were held today?

Senate

Doug Anderson (D) 4%

Robert Bennett (R) 3%

Joe Cannon (R) 29%

Kyle Kopitke (D) 1%

Wayne Owens (D) 36%

Ted Stewart (R) 3%

Brent Ward (R) 4%

Other 0%

Don't know 19%

Conducted March 3-4, 1992

Sample size: 604

Error: +/- 4.0%