Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. is leading challenger Eleanor M. Carey just days before the Democratic primary election, but she is still within striking distance, a new poll shows.
Another incumbent, Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, has a mammoth lead in his Democratic primary race, while his opponent has made minor inroads with a negative advertising campaign.
Those are the results of a telephone poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research Inc. Wednesday and Thursday for The Sun and other news organizations. Pollsters interviewed 581 Marylanders who said they were likely to vote in the Democratic primary Tuesday.
The poll showed that more voters have picked a favorite in the attorney general's race in the last two weeks. Less than a third were undecided this week, compared to 42 percent in late August.
The newly decided voters divided their support evenly among the three candidates.
Mr. Curran still has first place, with 37 percent of the vote. Ms. Carey has 21 percent, and Patrick J. Smith has 10 percent. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. The lineup in late August was Mr. Curran with 34 percent, Ms. Carey with 17 and Mr. Smith with 7.
"Curran has a significant lead, and he's the better-known incumbent," said Herbert C. Smith, a political science professor at Western Maryland College. "Could Carey win? Sure, it could happen. We've had bigger upsets than that in primaries across the country."
Ms. Carey, a former deputy attorney general, lost to Mr. Curran in a close, three-way primary for the same office in 1986.
Undecided voters tend to flock to challengers rather than the in cumbent at this stage, the political science professor said. Although that doesn't bode well for Mr. Curran, he does benefit from having two challengers to split up those votes, he said. The winner will face the lone Republican candidate, Richard D. Bennett, in November.
In the Democratic race for comptroller, Mr. Goldstein continues to hold about 60 percent of the vote, while challenger James B. Moorhead jumped from 9 percent to 21 percent in two weeks.
Even if all 19 percent of the undecided voters in that race go to Mr. Moorhead, "he still gets blown out" Tuesday, said Del Ali, vice president of Mason-Dixon.
Mr. Moorhead's television ads, which imply that Mr. Goldstein is "corrupt," have had a minimal effect, Mr. Ali said. The percentage of people with a negative opinion of the nine-term incumbent rose from 8 percent in late August to 15 percent. "I wouldn't call that dramatic," Mr. Ali said.