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LEAVITT CREEPS INTO THE RUNNING IN GOVERNOR'S RACE

Independent candidate Merrill Cook still leads in the governor's race, the latest Deseret News KSL-TV poll shows, but Republican Mike Leavitt has crept into the contest and newcomer Patrick Shea already leads among Democrats.

Pollster Dan Jones & Associates found in a recent survey that Cook, a former Republican now running in his new Independent Party, gets 17 percent support.He's followed by Republican businessman/writer Richard Eyre with 13 percent support, then Leavitt, an insurance executive, with 11 percent support.

Shea, a media attorney and former state Democratic Party chairman who only recently announced for the race, gets 8 percent, Jones found.

Former judge Stewart Hanson Jr., a Democrat, gets 3 percent support. State Sen. Scott Howell, a Democrat who has been looking at the race, gets 4 percent support. Salt Lake County Commissioner Mike Stewart, a Republican, gets 6 percent support. And former Industrial Commissioner Dixie Minson, a Republican, gets 4 percent support.A third of voters, 33 percent, are still undecided, Jones found.

The governor's race has been strange. Early front-runners, like former Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis, U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen, developer Kem Gardner and Lt. Gov. W. Val Oveson, either walked to the campaign cliff's edge and decided not to run or actually announced they were running, only to decide later to get out of the race.

The voids left by the big names getting out have only partly been filled, the latest survey shows. The number of "undecideds" has actually grown compared to an October 1991 Jones survey.

Still, some candidates, like Leavitt and Shea, made headway in the latest poll.

In fact, in a Republican primary matchup - where everyone can vote - Leavitt has caught up with Eyre. In such an open primary, Leavitt and Eyre each get 16 percent support, Stewart has 14 percent support and Minson comes in with 5 percent support. A large 41 percent remain undecided, Jones found.

Among those who told Jones they are Republicans, Eyre still leads - as he has in the past. Eyre gets 25 percent of Republicans in a GOP primary, Leavitt gets 18 percent, Stewart gets 13 percent and Minson gets 3 percent. Forty percent of Republicans are still undecided, Jones found.

Shea's entrance into the Democratic race had an immediate impact. Shea obviously is picking up some of the support that originally went to DePaulis - who was a popular Democratic mayor - and Gardner - who ran for governor in 1984 making it into a Democratic primary with Wayne Owens.

In a Democratic primary, Shea gets 15 percent support, Hanson gets 13 percent and Howell gets 9 percent. But a whopping 51 percent are still undecided, Jones found.

Among those who said they are Democrats - and so more likely to vote in an open Democratic primary - Jones found that Shea gets 25 percent support, Howell gets 15 percent support and Hanson gets 14 percent support. Still, 39 percent of Democrats are undecided about the governor's race.

On the Republican side, Leavitt and Eyre, two relatively unknown candidates, have progressed steadily in polls conducted for the newspaper and television station since October 1991.

In October, Leavitt started at 3 percent, Eyre at 7 percent. In December, Eyre had 11 percent support, Leavitt 4 percent.

Eyre has been buying half-hour television slots on Channel 13 to talk about many of his campaign themes and problems and solutions facing Utahns.

Leavitt has bought billboards along the Wasatch Front and has been running several radio advertisements. Now Eyre is at 13 percent, Leavitt at 11 percent.

Cook jumped from the Republican Party in 1988, running for governor as an Independent. He got 21 percent of the vote, tying his campaign closely to the tax-cutting initiatives that year.

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(Poll)

Which candidate for governor would you most likely support if the election were held today?

Governor

Merrill Cook (1) 17%

Richard Eyre (R) 13%

Stewart Hanson Jr. (D) 3%

Scott Howell (D) 4%

Mike Leavitt (R) 11%

Dixie Minson (R) 4%

Patrick Shea 8%

Mike Stewart (R) 6%

Other 1%

Don't know 33%

Conducted March 3-4, 1992

Sample size: 604+ Error: +/- 4.0%