A poll funded and conducted by Greg Smith and Associates, based in Eagle, finds that Republican Vaughn Ward is leading the race for the right to face Democrat Walt Minnick, the incumbent in Idaho's 1st Congressional District. Ward is going head-to-head with state Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, for the nomination.
The poll, conducted one week ago, shows that while Ward holds a sizable lead, Labrador is within striking distance due to the number of likely voters who responded saying that they are undecided about who to vote for on May 25. Smith found that Ward is favored by 34 percent of respondents, while Labrador is the choice of 16 percent of likely voters. Interestingly, 50 percent of those polled either refused to answer the question or were unsure of which candidate they plan to support in the primary. The poll also shows a favorable position for the man Ward and Labrador are trying to unseat. Smith's survey shows that of the 400 people polled, about half say they are likely to vote for Democratic incumbent Walt Minnick, compared to the 20 percent who say they will vote for "The Republican candidate."
In his analysis of the poll, Smith said the race is up for grabs. “There is no dominant front-runner within the Republican primary," he said. He notes that despite Ward's funding advantage, where he holds a substantial lead over Labrador, recent campaign miscues have plagued his standing with voters. Smith referred specifically to Idaho Statesman writer Dan Popkey's revelation that Ward's wife, Kirsten, works for the federally-supported Fannie Mae, his perceived "flip-flopping" on where he stands on the 17th Amendment, and the use of his Marine uniform in campaign advertisements, which drew the ire of the Pentagon. Labrador, on the other hand, has not run a perfect campaign either, says Smith. He faults Labrador for not making himself more available to voters in the northern portion of the state. "His lack of presence nonetheless presents a challenge," said Smith.
Overall, Smith believes the race for the congressional seat in Idaho's 1st District will be exciting during the course of the next few months. "Although the odds are in favor of a Minnick victory, his position is by no means dominant, and he is certainly not a prohibitive favorite. These findings help demonstrate why this congressional district race is one of the top most-watched in the nation," he said.
Ward and Labrador are set to clash tonight in one of the most highly anticipated debates of the spring. The forum is sponsored by Idaho Public Television and will be broadcast on that station at 7 Pacific/ 8 Mountain Time or will be available for later viewing on the station’s website. The debate will take place in the 200-seat auditorium in the underground Senate wing of the Idaho State Capitol. IdahoReporter.com will provide full coverage of the event and will feature reaction from both Labrador and Ward following the debate.