By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World
TOPEKA, KAN. — The 2014 contest for governor of Kansas has become a tight race, according to a new poll.
A SurveyUSA poll released Friday finds Democrat Paul Davis of Lawrence leading Republican Gov. Sam Brownback 43 percent to 39 percent. Meanwhile, 12 percent of responders said they favored a third party ticket.
Taking into account the 4.4 percentage point margin of error, the poll finds the candidates essentially even.
"Sam Brownback, who has served in Kansas as a Congressman, U.S. Senator, and now Governor, is in danger of being unseated after one term," pollsters said.
The poll of 511 registered voters was conducted for KWCH-TV in Wichita on Wednesday and Thursday, just after Davis, the House minority leader, named Docking, a Wichita businesswoman, to the ticket on Tuesday.
Brownback leads 2-to-1 among Republicans, trails 11-to-1 among Democrats and splits among independents polled. Among those who identify themselves as moderates, Davis leads Brownback 58 percent to 28 percent in the poll.
Brownback won election easily in 2010 with 63 percent of the vote.
He has implemented income tax cuts that he says will boost the economy but Democrats and some Republicans say the tax cuts have benefited the wealthy at the expense of low- and middle-income Kansans and will deprive revenue from public schools and social services.
Earlier this week, SurveyUSA released a poll for KWCH that showed Brownback with high job disapproval rankings, while Davis had low name recognition.
That SurveyUSA poll found that 58 percent of Kansans polled disapproved of the job Brownback was doing, while 35 percent approved.
When the poll asked individuals' personal opinion of Brownback, 22 percent were favorable and 47 percent unfavorable, while the remaining were either neutral or had no opinion.
Dave Kensinger, Brownback's campaign spokesman, dismissed the poll results, saying SurveyUSA earlier this week showed that President Barack Obama had a higher job approval rate than U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican from Hays — 42 percent to 37 percent.
"If you believe that Barack Obama is more popular than Jerry Moran in Kansas —which this same firm claimed this week — then you'll believe this," Kensinger said.
Kensinger added, "The Obama base vote has coalesced nationally more quickly than the center-right majority in Kansas. Given the choice between Kansas solutions and the Obama agenda, we are confident Kansans will vote in 2014 as they have in 2012, 2010 and 2008."
Davis dismissed Kensinger's attempts to link his campaign to Obama.
"The voters of Kansas want us to talk about the issues that matter to them. They're concerned about the high cost of being a Kansan, the fact that their property taxes continue to go up, sales taxes have now gone up due to Sam Brownback, utility rates are going up, and college tuition is going up," he said.
SurveyUSA describes itself on its website as an independent, non-partisan, full-service opinion research firm in business since 1992 It does research for media, government, and private-sector clients.