Regina James-Banks, 33, of Baltimore said the negative publicity about Brown and Gansler makes her less likely to vote for them, though she really doesn't know much about either one.

She is supporting Mizeur, whom she saw giving a television interview about legalizing marijuana to raise tax revenue to pay for more pre-kindergarten classes. "She was the only person that I was really interested in," James-Banks said.

Brown and Gansler have amassed more than $6 million each to spend on their races. Mizeur decided to accept public financing, which limits her ability to spend, but she has drawn support from some national advocacy groups with deep pockets.

The poll showed that Brown is popular among black voters, garnering 61 percent of their support statewide. If elected, he would be Maryland's first African-American governor. Brown also has strong margins in the Baltimore region and Washington suburbs, at 37 percent and 41 percent, respectively.

Brown and Mizeur are attracting voters under age 35, with 39 percent supporting Brown and 31 percent backing Mizeur. Raabe termed Gansler's lack of support among younger voters "a tremendous sign of weakness."

Gansler and Brown are running neck-and-neck among likely white voters, the poll shows, with Brown at 23 percent and Gansler 22 percent.

The early numbers could shift as more voters start paying closer attention to candidates and their policies. The June primary is earlier than in past years, when it was held in September. Political observers believe interest will pick up in the spring, when ad campaigns are expected to begin in earnest.

Among those waiting to make up her mind is Celestine Parker, 65, a retired preschool teacher who lives in Cherry Hill. Parker said she always votes, but it's too early for her to pay attention.

"I've heard of the Brown man because he's the lieutenant," she said in a telephone interview, her great-grandchildren laughing in the background. "And I know the attorney guy is running. I don't know much about any of them."

The botched rollout of the health care exchange will make her less likely to vote for Brown, she said, but Gansler's party controversy also troubled her. She'd never heard of Mizeur.

"I'll have to look them all over," Parker said.

Republicans voters are even more up in the air than the Democrats, the poll indicates, with 68 percent calling themselves undecided.

Glenn Daggs, 60, of North Laurel, a retired postal worker who closely follows national politics, said he knows little about the GOP candidates for governor and is undecided. The only name he recognized was Larry Hogan's.

"I remember his father, but I know nothing about him," Daggs said. Hogan's father, also named Larry, was a congressman and Prince George's County executive.

Paul Sobus, an 83-year-old retiree from Clarksville, supports Hogan largely because of his outspoken criticism of Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, who cannot run for re-election because of term limits.

Hogan is "just the opposite of what we have in there now," Sobus said. "I don't know a whole lot about the other Republican candidates."

George Moore, 78, a retired farmer from Perry Hall, said he favors Craig because he likes what the Harford county executive has accomplished in that office. And "he's the only one I know anything about at all," Moore said.

But Moore, echoing sentiments expressed by other Republican voters interviewed, is pessimistic about the general election in Democratic Maryland. "I've about given up on anyone being a decent governor," he said.

Raabe said the large number of undecided voters in both parties and the apparent softness of support among some of those who have made a choice means it's possible that one of the Democrats could shake up the race. And that it's not far-fetched to imagine that a Republican could win.

"There is this passive, unexcited atmosphere about this upcoming election," Raabe said. "That means that things could change dramatically if a candidate stumbles or if a candidate takes fire."

About the poll

OpinionWorks of Annapolis conducted the poll for The Baltimore Sun. It surveyed 1,199 likely Maryland voters by telephone Feb. 8-12, including 500 likely Democratic primary voters and 499 likely Republican primary voters. The margin of error is 4.4 percentage points for questions about each of the two primaries.