Second poll shows even tighter race for West Virginia governor

CHARLESTON — The second third-party poll on the 2020 race for governor released Wednesday shows a slightly tighter race between Republican Gov. Jim Justice and Democratic Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango.

A poll released by Strategies Unlimited for anti-Justice group WV First shows Justice in the lead with Salango only six percentage points behind. According to the poll, Justice led Salango 46 percent to 40 percent, followed by Mountain Party candidate Daniel Lutz Jr. with 5 percent and 8 percent undecided.

The poll was conducted by live callers between Sept. 26 and Sept. 30 with 600 likely voters. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent and was weighted for age, gender, and party affiliation.

When asked about their opinions of Justice, 38 percent had a favorable opinion, 30 percent had an unfavorable opinion, 27 percent said their opinion was mixed, and five percent were undecided.

Justice, speaking Wednesday, said his internal polling had him ahead of Salango as well. A poll released back in early September by the campaign and conducted by Republican pollster Mark Blankenship had Justice leading Salango 54 percent to 27 percent. Justice said it was no surprise that polls would narrow as Election Day approaches, but his focus was on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You would naturally expect as we get closer that they’ll get closer, but again, I have a job to do, it’s my job to continue to do,” Justice said.

The WV First poll is the second third-party poll released this week. WMOV 1360 AM and Oregon-based Triton Polling and Research released the results of a poll Tuesday on multiple races, including the governor’s race. According to that poll, 48.4 percent said they would support Justice, 37.6 percent said they supported Salango, 4.1 percent supported Libertarian Party candidate Erika Kolenich, 3.7 percent supported Lutz and 6.2 percent were undecided.

In a memo to reporters Wednesday, Salango campaign manager Grant Herring pointed to Justice being below 50 percent in both polls as a sign that Salango was gaining momentum.

“With just under a month left to go in the West Virginia gubernatorial race, Democratic Nominee for Governor Ben Salango is seeing growing momentum and an expanding base of voters,” Herring said. “Meanwhile, voters are holding Jim Justice accountable for his failed leadership and his lead is shrinking down to single digits.”

When it came to Salango, the results show name recognition is still a hurdle for the businessman and attorney. Of those polled, 32 percent said they had a favorable opinion of Salango, 17 percent had an unfavorable opinion, 21 percent had mixed opinions, and 30 percent were undecided.

Herring said the campaign is doing aggressive media buys, with a new commercial on the air showing Salango climbing a rock face and talking about his willingness to do the job. Salango is also continuing his West Virginia Forward bus tour, which was in the Northern Panhandle and the Mid-Ohio Valley over the last two weeks. Salango has also racked up a number of labor and business endorsements, most recently from the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We are in striking distance and running an aggressive campaign in the style of other winning West Virginia Democrats’ campaigns — meeting people where they are, listening to the voters, and visiting every corner of the Mountain State,” Herring said. “West Virginians far and wide are responding to Ben’s campaign, with many key groups and figures in the state endorsing his candidacy.”

According to the poll, 40 percent of respondents identified as registered Democrats, 38 percent identified as Republicans, and 22 percent identified as independent. The majority of participants were over the age of 55. Broken down by gender, 56 percent were women and 44 percent were men. When broken down by union members, only 23 percent said they were members of labor unions.

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com


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